Camp Speaker series welcomes Yiota Souras

Souras, the Senior Vice President for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, discussed online sex trafficking in the United States.
On Wednesday, April 4, Ms. Yiota Souras, an alumna of St. Catherine's School and current Senior Vice President for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), spoke in Upper School chapel as part of the Camp Speaker Series. Ms. Souras focused on her work with NCMEC and, in particular, the topic of sex trafficking in the United States. 

"Child victims of trafficking come from every socioeconomic, racial and ethnic background. They live in cities, the suburbs, in rural areas in every state across the country," Souras said. "One common traits that all of these children share is that they are deeply vulnerable and in need—most often for love and emotional support."

Prior to Ms. Souras' visit, the Upper School student body and faculty watched the film I am Jane Doe (2017). The film, directed by Mary Mazzio, advocates for victims of online trafficking while targeting the classified-ad website Backpage.com, a notorious venue for sex ads and transactions, many involving children.

According to Souras, Backpage.com continued to operate under protection from section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) which stated that online service providers could not be liable for third-party content. "The United States at that point during the 90's was trying very hard to become the world leader in developing technology and websites for the internet," she said. "So Congress thought that it was very important to protect online innovation."

Ms. Souras pointed out that the as the internet "grew up" over the past 20 years, so did the demand for online illegal activity including the trafficking of children. "Because of the CDA, Backpage continued to claim that they couldn't be sued, and that they didn't need to change their business practices either," she said. 

For the duration of her talk, Ms. Souras discussed the cooperation between the NCMEC, several litigation groups, and lawmakers who lobbied together for a bill that would shut down Backpage's trafficking activities. "Ultimately it became a moral battle of who is responsible for online crimes that cause very real-life damage to children," Souras said. The bill, called "Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act," (FOSTA), passed both Houses of Congress in recent months and is expected to be signed into law by the President on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. 

Following her talk, Ms. Souras spent the day visiting with several different classes on campus. More information about Ms. Souras is available on the NCMEC website, and more information about the FOSTA legislation is available here

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The Camp Speaker series was made possible by the family of Paul Camp, a now deceased Richmond businessman with long-standing ties to St. Christopher's. His wife Lee was a longtime Upper School history teacher and his son Doug graduated from St. Christopher's in 1987. Previous Camp Speakers include Judge Hannah Lauck and Chief of Ethics Policy at the Veterans Health Administration Virginia Asby Sharpe

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