11 April: The groundbreaking FOSTA/SESTA bill has been signed into US law by President Trump, establishing criminal and civil liability for websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking! This is truly a watershed moment in ending a culture that normalizes the sale of vulnerable women and children. This new law means internet companies will be more vigilant to prevent trafficking happening online and - when it does - victims will be able to get justice and seek damages for the harm they have suffered. This is a major victory. Thank you for the role you have played in making it happen.
BACKGROUND ON THE BILL AND ONLINE SEX TRAFFICKING
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).
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, as a result, 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.
Raise your voice!
Contact your Representatives and Senators by calling: 202-224-3121.
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/Senator [Name] to take action to stop the buying and selling of girls online for sex and support FOSTA/SESTA bill. This bill would ensure that websites, like Backpage.com, that help traffic women and girls are held liable. Thank you!