WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 11, 2017) – Members of Congress looking to fight sex trafficking facilitated by online advertising sites like Backpage.com should
The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote as early as Tuesday on the “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017,” also known as FOSTA, which, if enacted, would fall short of stopping predators who use the internet to traffic men, women, and children. FOSTA also lacks significant buy-in and strong support from stakeholders including technology industry groups and survivors that SESTA enjoys.
“Polaris deeply appreciates the commitment of members of the House Judiciary Committee to protecting children from online sex trafficking, but we have significant concerns about how that commitment was translated into legislation that we believe will not, in fact, achieve that goal,” said Joe Racalto, Polaris’s senior policy advisor. “We look forward to working together toward passage of SESTA, the powerful and effective legislation crafted in the United States Senate to ensure websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable.”
SESTA, the bipartisan Senate bill, enables state law enforcement officials to take legal action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws without inadvertently affecting good actors who are not knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. SESTA also clarifies that victims of sex trafficking can seek civil remedy against the websites that facilitated their victimization. The legislation has the support of a wide range of groups representing law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors, nonprofits, and technology sector leaders like the Internet Association, whose members include Google, Amazon, and Facebook, among others.
FOSTA, on the other hand, raises significant concerns across these stakeholder groups. Among these, that it actually makes it harder for victims to sue and win against websites on which they were sex trafficked. The House bill also does not allow Attorneys General to protect children by bringing civil actions against websites that violate the federal anti-trafficking statutes and bars victims from seeking justice if they have not filed their case before enactment.
Polaris will continue to join with our coalition partners, tech companies, and victims, and urge the swift passage of SESTA in the House, and we call upon members to join us in this effort.
People can receive help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking in the United States by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to Polaris at “BeFree” (233733).
Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world’s leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.