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 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

Senior Vice President and Executive Director

Dawn Hawkins is a passionate abolitionist and defender of human rights who has dedicated her life to fighting against societal harms that threaten the dignity of others. Her energy, creativity and mobilization skills have revived the anti-pornography movement and her intentional emphasis on the intersectionality of forms of sexual exploitation has proven a unique and effective strategy for curbing them.


As Sr. Vice President and Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), Mrs. Hawkins has developed a global strategy uniting more than 300 women’s rights, conservative, child advocacy, medical professionals, law enforcement, and religious groups, including a bipartisan political leadership, to work together in raising awareness of the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation. Her initiatives have lead to sweeping policy changes of policies that foster exploitation for targets such as Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, and the Department of Defense. Through her leadership, NCOSE has grown a network reaching hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Mrs. Hawkins has appeared on many local and national 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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