December 24, 2018

The Battle Against Big Tech on Sex Trafficking

Dec. 24, 2016 — that’s the night that 16-year-old Desiree Robinson was murdered by the man who purchased her for sex on Backpage.com.

Backpage.com had operated as an advertisement website, akin to Craigslist, for years and made millions of dollars by posting ads for prostitution and sex trafficking, just like the ad that delivered Desiree to her murderer.

It took several months of relentless effort by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and key allies before Congress passed FOSTA-SESTA.

This was a monumental victory. It removed the de facto immunity for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking and prostitution online, and it allows survivors to go to court against websites that acted as virtual pimps.

But it didn’t end there.

Big Tech has tried to get language that would once again give immunity to knowingly facilitating sexual exploitation into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

They realized that if Big Tech succeeds here, the prospects of similar language becoming boilerplate for future trade negotiations with other countries is high. The result: global export of criminal and civil immunity for websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

NCOSE joined various allies responding to this new threat. By utilizing the coalition’s network, the alarm reach the White House and the draft NAFTA language was released with a special provision protecting against sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, and prostitution .

While we breathe a sigh of relief, we know that this struggle is not over. Big Tech is still actively looking for ways to circumvent this law—whether through trade agreements or through lawsuits.

Supporters like you are a vital part of keeping online ads for sex trafficking and prostitution illegal. Your donations make it possible for us to advocate for sex trafficking survivors and victims in Washington DC. Not only for Desiree, but the other 242 individuals ranging in age from 3 to 71, whose murders the anti-trafficking advocacy groups identified as occurring as a result of ads on websites like Backpage and Craigslist.

We need you if we are going to fight online sex trafficking. Together, we have a chance. But without you, Big Tech will be one step closer to victory.

Dawn Hawkins

Chief Executive Officer

Dawn Hawkins is CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading organization exposing the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and child sexual abuse. Dawn’s energy, creativity and mobilization skills are deployed to build a world free from sexual violence, with freedom and human dignity for all.

Dawn is deeply committed to bipartisan political solutions at the federal and state level. Her issue expertise, visionary initiatives, and innovative strategy have led to groundbreaking change in the legislative arena and in multimillion-dollar corporate policies.

Dawn has been instrumental in re-imaging the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has centered the need to address buyer demand for commercial sex, called out corporate entities facilitating exploitation through the annual Dirty Dozen List, fostered an international movement, and constantly: advocates for survivors. Her work has sparked change at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, the Department of Defense, Instagram, TikTok, and other influential firms. Dawn has appeared on many television programs, including CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She regularly authors articles and speaks around the country addressing the public health harms of pornography, curbing demand for sex trafficking, protecting children and families in our digital world, and more.

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