March 20, 2018


Legislation Is Needed to Close Loophole from Law that Shields Websites from Criminal Conduct 

Great Falls, VA – In a highly anticipated moment that has been years in the making for sex trafficking survivors, the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on H.R. 1865, the FOSTA-SESTA legislation that will provide local and state law enforcement and survivors the legal tools to go after websites that are knowingly facilitating human trafficking. The FOSTA-SESTA legislation recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly by a vote of 388 to 25, and was endorsed by the White House. Currently, there are 69 bipartisan Senate co-sponsors of SESTA, representing diverse leadership with wide-ranging political and ideological backgrounds.

 “Senate passage of the FOSTA-SESTA bill would mean that victims of sex trafficking and prosecutors would finally have the legal tools they need to go after websites like that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking and that have historically served as ’online brothels’ of advertisements for traffickers and pimps,” said Enough Is Enough® (EIE) President Donna Rice Hughes.  “These websites have profited off of the selling children and women for sex to the tune of millions. An overwhelming bi-partisan vote in the Senate will be a critical step towards draining the cyberswamp of commercial sexploitation.”

Last week, top White House aide Ivanka Trump hosted a roundtable with victims’ advocates, NGO leaders, tech industry experts and lawmakers where she referred to sex trafficking as a “hidden crime…a multi-billion dollar industry impacting the most vulnerable members of society.”  

During remarks from the Senate floor Monday, Senator Portman, the original co-sponsor of SESTA, eloquently conveyed how Backpage executives were complicit in knowingly facilitating sex trafficking, having gone so far as to coach traffickers on how to get away with their crimes by using deceptive tactics to avoid law enforcement such as editing words out like “cheerleader,” “little girl,” and “school girl,” among others, from its online advertisements.  “It [Backpage] facilitated it knowingly,” said Portman. “The incentive—why would Backpage go out all this? Profits.”

Trafficking victims have been unable to pursue civil litigation and local and state law enforcement have been blocked by federal judges from bringing criminal actions against websites that knowingly facilitate human trafficking due to a misinterpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Legislation to clarify Section 230 is needed given the 1st Circuit’s ruling that even criminal conduct by a website operator is shielded by the CDA.

 “The Senate must rectify this gross miscarriage of justice by passing the FOSTA-SESTA legislation as passed by the House. Doing so will send a strong message to the sleazy purveyors of sex trafficking who illegally market children and women by exploiting the efficiency of the Internet and social media that ‘Enough Is Enough®,’” continued Hughes. “By cultivating a safe environment for women and children, it is my dream to say that one day women and children will one day be able to collectively say “Not Me” instead of "Me Too," and are free to live in a society where their innocence and dignity are protected from sexual predators."

Hughes concludes, “It is imperative that the Senate pass the House bill in its current form and oppose the two new amendments by the opposition who are using deceptive tactics to derail this package and continue to deprive survivors and their families of justice. This legislation has unprecedented support from Congress, law enforcement, and anti-trafficking NGO’s across the country. Let’s get this bill to the desk of President Trump for the sake of women and children once and for all.”


Related Links:

Senate Letter Opposing Amendments to FOSTA SESTA (Signed by Enough Is Enough®)

Senator Portman Remarks on Senate Floor (3/19/18)

Letter from the Fraternal Order of Police 

Note: (FOSTA - Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act ) (SESTA - Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)