February 26, 2018

Enough Is Enough® Calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to Pass Critical Legislation to Hold Websites Accountable for Knowingly Facilitating Sex Trafficking

Statement by Donna Rice Hughes, President & CEO, Enough Is Enough®

Great Falls, VA. -- H.R. 1865, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), originally introduced by Representative Ann Wagner, is scheduled for an historic floor vote on Tuesday. The need for legislation to clarify Section 230 of the Communication’s Decency Act (CDA) is necessary given the 1st Circuit ruling in Doe v. Backpage which held that even if Backpage had participated in the crime of sex trafficking, Section 230 shielded the company from the claims filed by child victims.

“The urgency to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is long overdue,” said EIE President Donna Rice Hughes. “Section 230, originally known as the Good Samaritan Defense, was intended to protect children from the online exploitation. Unfortunately, it has been anything but a Good Samaritan immunity for responsible Internet service and content providers, and instead has been misused by third party websites like backpage.com as a Trojan horse to knowingly facilitate sex and trafficking with women in children,” said Ms. Hughes. “There must be accountability in the form of state and local criminal and civil liability for such sites which have been referred to by prosecutors as an 'online brothel.' Its time to put the dignity of women and children over corporate profit,” said Hughes.

For years, EIE has encouraged Congress to amend Section 230 due to a series of devastating rulings in multiple court cases over the years which have misinterpreted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by granting anything goes immunity to websites whose advertising business model knowingly facilitates sex trafficking and exploitation.

“By passing FOSTA along with the crucial amendment offered by Representative Mimi Walters which mirrors S. 1693 “Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act 2017” (SESTA), each member of the House has the opportunity to send an ‘enough is enough’ clarion message to sites who exploit and traffic vulnerable children and women and to the federal courts who have failed to properly interpret Congress’s original intent for #230. An overwhelming ‘yes’ vote by the House will say to child victims, ‘we hear you, we see you and we are standing with you by providing the necessary legislative remedy to seek justice,” continued Hughes, who applauded the resolution last week set forth unanimously by the Kentucky House of Representatives, which requested and petitioned the U.S. Congress to amend sections of the Community Decency Act (CDA 230) to “permit the prosecution of interactive computer service providers.”

In 2016, during his candidacy, Donald Trump signed EIE’s Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge in which he promised to “aggressively enforce existing federal laws to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online, including the obscenity, child pornography, sexual predation & sex trafficking laws.” Ms. Hughes added, “We strongly urge the House to pass the FOSTA-SESTA compromise package and move it to the Senate, offering hope to and justice for those who have suffered from this unconscionable act of human exploitation.” SESTA, originally introduced by Senators Portman and Blumenthal currently has 67 bipartisan Senate co-sponsors and is endorsed by the Internet Association (IA), as is H.R. 1865.

In 2013, Enough Is Enough® voiced strong support of the effort of The National Association of Attorneys General (49 Attorneys General) calling on Congress to support a simple two-word amendment that would enable state prosecutors to help fight prostitution and child sex trafficking. Unfortunately, Congress failed to act, resulting in more years of untold trauma and exploitation for trafficking victims and huge profits for websites and interactive service providers.