Opening in Theaters Friday, February 10th
I Am Jane Doe chronicles the epic battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex-trafficking on Backpage.com, the adult classifieds section that for years was part of the Village Voice. These mothers have stood up on behalf of thousands of other mothers, fighting back and refusing to take no for an answer. I Am Jane Doe is a gut-wrenching human story and fresh look at a social and legal issue that affects every community in America.
As I Am Jane Doe opens this weekend our Senior Director, Nancy Winston shares her thoughts on the film.
Along with many others advocating to end the unimpeded internet advertising of sex for sale, I watched incredulously as the principals of Backpage.com and their lawyer all asserted protection under the first and fifth amendments before the Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations last month. We were then stymied by the Supreme Court refusal to hear the case of the Jane Does trying to hold Backpage.com liable for financial reparations for the suffering and devastation the victims endured.
Backpage.com and other internet sites that carry sex for sale ads, often of minors, impudently and confidently hide behind the immunity provided by the Communications Decency Act. And clearly there is a closed door for any remedies through the court system.
The question that hangs heavy—where do we go from here?
But hope is dawning by way of the grassroots, often a more reliable generator of change. On February 6 there was a screening in Washington DC of the new film by Mary Mazzio of 50 Eggs productions called I AM JANE DOE. The film thoroughly recounts the nearly decade long efforts of the mothers of sex trafficked “Jane Does” to bring attention to the terrible reality of their minor daughters’ experiences and to obtain reparations from the internet companies that boldly published ads for sex with their daughters.
The message of the film is very clear: Congress needs to address the problem through a modification to the CDA. John Montgomery, legal expert in one of the JANE DOE cases describes the choice before Congress…”[they] could decide to protect the Internet or protect kids”.
Technology has outpaced the legal framework that was originally intended by that law. Enacted in 1996, in the early days of the internet, it was intended to be a business saving framework that would protect the nascent tech industry from defamation suits for content posted by third parties. But it was never intended to shelter criminal activity or to create a lawless internet. Incredibly, this 20 year-old law now protects an on-line slave auction, a point so clearly brought home in I AM JANE DOE.
Clearly, any proposed change to the immunity Internet Content Service Providers enjoy under Section 230 of the CDA will be vigorously opposed by many, including all the tech giants, who will divert the argument to one of first amendment rights. We will be facing off against a multibillion dollar industry, but it has become clear this is the only route. I AM JANE DOE will be premiering in theaters around the country and then will soon be available via Netflix. It gives a powerful voice to the grassroots advocacy that will bring the needed change to this law.
As one mom in the film said, “No matter how often you come against CDA, it’s always gonna shut you down”. It’s time to end that shutdown.
Support this film and find a theater near you: www.iamjanedoefilm.com