California Sen. Kamala Harris (D.) has announced her support for a bipartisan bill aimed at cracking down on websites that have been used for sex trafficking after months of silence on the issue and criticism from activists who questioned why she had not endorsed the measure earlier.
The senior Democratic senator from California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also backed the measure late last week.
The swing of lawmaker support in favor of the bill came the same day tech giants, including Facebook and Google, reversed course and decided to support the legislation after vehemently opposing it for several months.
The about face by the companies occurred late last week after Facebook, Twitter, and Google executives were grilled on Capitol Hill during hearings scrutinizing their role in allowing Russia propaganda to flow on their sites during the 2016 presidential election.
Harris and Feinstein, Democrats representing Silicon Valley, were among those lobbing tough questions at the executives during those hearings.
Harris, Feinstein, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.) issued a statement Friday announcing their strong support for the anti-sex-trafficking measure.
“Sex trafficking is a despicable crime that is too often facilitated by nefarious websites like Backpage. These companies knowingly profit off the pain of others and must be held accountable,” said Harris, Feinstein and Cortez. “This legislation ensures victims receive their day in court and empowers state attorneys general to seek justice.
“We applaud the hard work of the bill’s authors and are proud to join in support,” they added.
Harris’s decision to announce her support for the bill, which came the same day the Internet companies changed course and publicly backed the measure, is particularly notable.
Over the past month, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog publicly criticized Harris’s previous reticence on the issue.