Washington State has become the first in the country to require verification of age for online ads that promote sex-related services, such as the escort ads that appear in backpage.com, reported the Associated Press. Called Senate Bill 6251, it was among a dozen anti-trafficking bills signed into law by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire.
"Some of them are leading edge legislation, including the first time in the nation criminalizing those who advertise minors online if they have not done the verification of age," said Rose Gundersen, co-founder and Executive Director of non-profit Washington Engage, according to NPR.
The Washington legislation was praised last week by groups working to stop child sex trafficking, reported The New York Times. Other states, including Connecticut, are considering similar law.
"This groundbreaking, bipartisan bill responds to the public's outrage over the exploitation of vulnerable kids — including runaways and addicts — by certain businesses," said Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna in a press release, according to the AP. "Just weeks after Sen. Kohl-Welles' legislation received national attention, legislators in Connecticut introduced a similar proposal. We expect that other states will soon follow Washington's lead."
Another bill that passed increases the minimum fine for convicted Johns, and some of the money collected from the fines will be used to help victims. Washington was the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking, reported NPR. The Seattle Police Department said it has linked 22 cases of child prostitution since 2010 to girls advertised as escorts on backpage.com.