Today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on H.R. 1865, the Allowing States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), which was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Ann Wagner. This narrowly crafted legislation is a critical tool for amending section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), an outdated law that has been interpreted by the courts to grant third-party websites that facilitate sex trafficking broad immunity.
The hearing comes in the wake of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) arresting 22 men for soliciting sex with a minor on the classified ads website, Backpage, which is notorious for facilitating the sex trafficking of minors.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation released the following statement from NCOSE Vice President Lisa Thompson:
“Without question, the law must do more to protect the vulnerable, especially women and children, from being sexually exploited and trafficked online. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation stands with and applauds the bipartisan group of lawmakers who understand that this reform is absolutely essential,” said Thompson.
Thompson added, “No one can in good conscience hear testimonies detailing the horrors of online sex trafficking without asking, ‘What more can be done to put an end to this modern-day slavery and to crack down on any entity that facilitates it, either knowingly or with reckless disregard?’ There’s only one meaningful answer to that question: Congress must amend the Communications Decency Act.”
Support for amending the CDA gained considerable ground earlier this month when a similar measure, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), was passed unanimously by the Senate’s Commerce Committee. Senator Ron Wyden subsequently placed a hold on the bill—an action which has raised the ire of sex trafficking survivors. More than 100 survivors have joined a letter calling on Wyden to support SESTA.
To learn more about the Communications Decency Act and its role in facilitating online sex trafficking visit endsexualexploitation.org/cda.