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President Signs Bill to Combat Online Sex Trafficking

New legislation allows states and victim's to go after websites that promote online sex trafficking.

Washington, D.C.- Emerald Robinson, White House Correspondent

President Trump signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 early Tuesday scoring a win in the on-going battle against the sell of largely women and children via websites. The bill will ensure that websites promoting sex trafficking can be prosecuted.

Previously, websites like skirted liability for online sex trafficking by claiming immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934. This particular section provided that companies who unknowingly promoted sex trafficking via posts made by web users were not liable for those independent posts. These websites claim to be a third-party platform with no responsibility for the ads that are placed on their websites. However, this new bill signed by the president allows state attorneys general and victims to go after websites like Backpage.

A congressional investigation found that websites like Backpage were removing key terms specific to online trafficking and allowing the ads to run–including many with possible child-trafficking content. Backpage is a classifieds site similar to Craigslist.

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) who lead the effort to pass the bill in the Senate released this statement regarding the president’s signing of H.R. 1865:

“This is a momentous day in the fight to help stop online sex trafficking, and a big victory for trafficking victims and survivors who for too long have been denied the opportunity to get the justice they deserve. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the bravery of the sex trafficking victims and their families who shared their stories, the work of anti-trafficking advocates who helped us craft a narrowly-tailored solution, and a broad coalition of support that was unwavering its commitment to getting this done. I’d particularly like to thank Senators Thune, Blumenthal, McCain, McCaskill, Cornyn, and Heitkamp for their leadership and hard work on this effort. No one thought that we could get this done, but we did. SESTA will make an difference in the lives of sex trafficking survivors. Justice for these victims is long overdue.”

Statistics shows that more than 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking every year. The majority of those cases occur via online trafficking.

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