March 21, 2018

Senate Listens to Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Passes FOSTA-SESTA

The Senate today passed FOSTA-SESTA by a vote of 97-2. The legislative package included H.R. 1865 the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, and an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters which incorporated the vital reforms contained in S. 1693 the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), sponsored by Senators Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal. This legislation amended the Communications Decency Act to help fight online sex trafficking by restoring victims’ civil right of action and empowering state Attorneys General to prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauds all members of the Senate who worked and voted for this reform.

It is difficult to quantify the magnitude of this victory for victims of online sex trafficking. Passing FOSTA-SESTA was the only adequate legislative solution to the incredible injustices they have suffered. Survivors of sex trafficking spoke, and the Senate listened. For years classified advertising websites like Backpage built their business model on and profited from facilitating the criminal activity of sex trafficking. With the passage of FOSTA-SESTA, the days of total immunity for websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking are over.

With Congress’s passage of FOSTA-SESTA, and the President’s forthcoming singing of this bill into law, lawmakers have untied prosecutors’ hands so that they can deliver justice for victims of online sex trafficking who, until now, were defenseless and powerless to hold the kingpins of online sex trafficking accountable.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation expresses our tremendous gratitude to the bipartisan group of senators and members of the House of Representatives who stood with the victims of modern-day slavery, especially Senators Rob Portman, Richard Blumenthal, Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp and John Thune and Representatives Ann Wagner, Carolyn Maloney, Mimi Walters and Joyce Beatty. They stood for the principle that people are not products to be bought and sold online by their unrelenting commitment to pass this historic reform.

To learn more about the Communications Decency Act and its role in facilitating online sex trafficking visit Take a moment to thank the lawmakers who passed this crucial reform! 

Lisa Thompson

Lisa L. Thompson, Vice President of Research and Education, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Vice President and Director of the NCOSE Research Institute

As Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Lisa conducts policy analysis and advocacy, advances understanding of pornography’s public health harms, and liaises with public officials, advocates, and academics to advance strategies combating the web of sexual exploitation, including pornography, stripping, prostitution, sexual trafficking, sexual assault, and more.

Lisa joined NCOSE following two years with World Hope International where as Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa oversaw sex trafficking recovery programs in Cambodia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global. Lisa also routinely speaks and trains on sexual exploitation topics for a diverse range of audiences. Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters.

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