February 28, 2018, Orlando, FL
For years, websites used to facilitate human trafficking have made Millions while young girls and boys are exploited repeatedly. These websites make it easy for buyers to purchase sex from victims and legal proceedings have stalled. Lawyers for sites like Backpage.com, which hosts thousands of ads for prostitution daily, have cited the Communications Decency Act in court and have mostly managed to avoid litigation while evidence has piled up showing their involvement.
Imagine your child goes missing. You are distraught. You look everywhere and eventually resort to looking online. Then you see her. She has a different name, but it’s her on the website being sold for sex. You are heartbroken and enraged. How could this happen?
This is the story of more than a few parents. It is told by several parents and children in the shocking documentary, I Am Jane Doe, now available on Netflix.
Yesterday’s vote in the House of Representatives is a step toward changing the story. The “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” or “FOSTA,” passed the House. The bill amends the Communications Decency Act by specifically allowing criminal and civil actions against a website if its conduct violates federal sex trafficking laws. As a result, victims who have been trafficked on these sites could find justice.
A similar bill is working its way through the Senate, and if passed there, would end up on the President’s desk. Advocates are hopeful that he would sign it since he has been a vocal supporter for efforts to stop human trafficking along with his daughter, Ivanka.
Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) filed the bill last year. She said, “This is a landmark piece of legislation. This is not just about Backpage. There are hundreds of others out there that are much worse. They’ve got to be brought down also.”