WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 27, 2018) – Polaris hailed passage of legislation in the U.S. House today that fights sex trafficking being facilitated online by advertising websites. Polaris was pleased an amendment from Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) incorporated key language from Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) bill to H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, sponsored by Ann Wagner (R-MO), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), and Walters. The amendment provides a much-needed update to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to help hold websites like Backpage.com accountable when they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking.
The legislation now moves back to the Senate where Senators Portman and Blumenthal have worked tirelessly to craft legislation with Polaris, human trafficking advocates, and various tech companies to finalize compromise language for their Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). Polaris encourages the Senate to pass this legislation and provide any technical corrections it deems necessary.
“We are incredibly grateful for the leadership of Sens. Portman and Blumenthal on ensuring SESTA could be passed through Congress while putting pressure specifically where it needs to be—on websites facilitating sex trafficking. We also thank Reps. Wagner, Maloney, McCarthy, Beatty, and Walters for all their work in the House on this critical legislation,” said Joe Racalto, Polaris’s Director of Government Relations.
“For too long, websites facilitating sex trafficking have exploited women, men, and children online, unimpeded. Polaris has worked for years to drive a consensus-based approach between technology and victims’ rights communities, calling for solutions that will withstand a constitutional test so legislative action is permanent,” Racalto continued. “That way, the number of people being exploited online is reduced in the long term and victims can seek justice against the websites that have carelessly disregarded the abuse occurring on their platforms.”
SESTA is bipartisan legislation that 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.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is operated by Polaris, has received nearly 2,000 reports of sex trafficking that were facilitated through online advertisements.
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 texting “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.