A new New Jersey law intended to root out online ads for underage sex has been blocked by a federal judge, fueling a growing national debate over whether internet companies should be forced to police what users post. The law is part of a crackdown on human trafficking. It makes it a first-degree crime knowlingly to publish, disseminate or display an advertisement and any photographs promoting sex with a minor.
Backers said the measure was needed to hold websites that offer classified advertisements responsible for perpetuating child sex abuse and underage prostitution. Two web companies sued, saying the law, while well-intentioned, violates a federal law that grants websites sweeping immunity from being held liable for the material people post online. U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh temporarily blocked the law. An identical law in Washington state was struck down last year and repealed, costing taxpayers $200,000 in legal bills.