28 FEBRUARY UPDATE: On 27 February, the US House of Represenatives overwhelmingly passed FOSTA HR 1865 and the Walters amendment 388-25! Thank you to everyone who who pushed for a strong response against online sex trafficking and accountability for those who facilitate it. Now, the Senate needs to pass the bill without further delay so that it can be signed into law. Please call on your Senators to support the bipartisan bill.
The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) was recently amended (Walters Amendment) to allow websites that facilitate sex trafficking to be sued and held liable.
The bill with the amendment has the potential to stop internet companies from hiding behind the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Section 230 while facilitating the selling of children online to be raped. This is a huge step forward as the past version of the bill didn’t include this provision which was incorporated from a pending Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA, S. 1693).
US Supporters: The House will vote on FOSTA with the Walters Amendment on Tuesday, February 27 – make sure your Representative is supporting it! Find your Representative here or call 202-224-3121 and then be loud and get the word out!
Suggested message for calls: Hi, my name is [NAME]. I am a constituent from [CITY] and my zip code is [ZIP CODE]. I am calling to ask Representative [Name] to take action to stop the buying and selling of girls online for sex and support FOSTA with the Walters Amendment. This bill would ensure that websites, like Backpage.com, that help traffic women and girls are held liable. Thank you!
Please do everything you can to Spread the word! The buying and selling of young girls for sex is at record levels, with the internet making it easier to accomplish and to hide. Yvonne Ambrose’s daughter might still be alive today if law enforcement had this legislation.
"A 32-year-old man … knew that Backpage.com was a site to go to in order to find young, underaged girls to have sex with. During his search he came upon the picture of my 16-year-old daughter. Desiree was driven to [his] residence by her pimp…. This was the last night of my daughter’s life. And her pictures were posted and moderated by Backpage.com….”
BACKGROUND ON ONLINE SEX TRAFFICKING
In 1996, Congress passed legislation to create an internet where ideas could be exchanged freely and to give internet service providers the ability to regulate explicit material on their sites. CDA Section 230, resultingly protects websites from liability for third-party published content. However, in its current form, the CDA has also allowed the internet to become a safe haven for sex traffickers. Nearly TWO-THIRDS of children sold for sex in the US are trafficked online, and a few years ago, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children directly correlated a five-year 846% increase in child sex trafficking reports to the growing use of the internet to sell children for sex.
For years, internet companies such as Backpage.com - the world's second largest classified advertising site - have knowingly promoted and facilitated online sex trafficking, often of children. In fact, from 2006 through 2017, 74% of all child sex trafficking reports received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children involved Backpage.com.
In January 2017, a Senate investigation found that Backpage actively modified ads so they would pass by internet sensors. And, in July, documents revealed that Backpage also created and solicited sexual ads. However, despite repeated efforts to bring internet companies that facilitate and profit from online sex trafficking to justice, a majority of US courts, including the First Circuit Court of Appeals, have deemed that Section 230 shields the companies from criminal and civil liability -- even in cases when they knew of or participated in posting advertisements for sex from minors.
Please raise your voice and give victims and survivors of sex trafficking a chance at justice!