Sex advertising websites and their users would face penalties for sex trafficking under a bill passed by the U.S. House Feb. 27, amending a law that had shielded such offenders. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
A bipartisan group of 388 legislators passed H.R. 1865, termed the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA),” to amend Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934. Section 230 had limited the legal liability of interactive computer service providers or users for content they publish that was created by others, according to a summary at Congress.gov.
The House bill would establish monetary fines and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for abusers who use or operate a “facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce or attempts to do so with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.”
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a supporter of the legislation, has termed Backpage a “hub” for prostitution advertising, and included the site on its 2018 Dirty Dozen List of the leading facilitators of sexual exploitation. The site has been prosecuted for sex-related crimes, but has avoided criminal liability by using Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 as a defense.