On Wednesday, November 8, the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to consider the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693). The legislation would amend section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to protect victims of online sex trafficking. It is the fervent hope of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation that the Committee will vote out a strong bill, one that will hold accountable all who are knowingly, or with reckless disregard, facilitating sex trafficking of human beings.
Moving forward with this legislation, lawmakers have a simple decision to make. They can either side with the money, power, and influence of some in the tech industry by watering down or abandoning this effort, or they can act expeditiously to protect the vulnerable and often silenced victims of online sex trafficking by passing a strong SESTA.
While a handful of industry leaders like Oracle, the Internet Association and 21st Century Fox are supporting SESTA, many members of the tech industry are using scare tactics to suggest this narrowly tailored legislation will be the end of the Internet as we know it. Their apocalyptic fearmongering is as overblown as it is false. What SESTA threatens is criminal actors that use the Internet to sell human beings for sexual exploitation.
Some tech industry insiders want to convince lawmakers, and especially the public, that existing law is adequately protecting victims of online sex trafficking from current and continued sexual exploitation. Tell that to Yvonne Ambrose, whose 16-year-old daughter, Desiree, was murdered while being exploited and sold for sexual exploitation on Backpage, the industry leader in online sex trafficking of minors.
This legislative effort puts the character of the Senate to the test in a way few other issues do. They can choose to side the with the powerful tech lobby, or they can choose to side with victims and their loved ones, who will be the first to tell you current law is not enough to fight our modern day slavery—online sex trafficking.