Anti-Trafficking Advocates, Law Enforcement, Tech Praise Senate Passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act

March 21, 2018 | Press Releases

Bipartisan SESTA Now Ready for the President’s Signature

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion, by a vote of 97-2.  This measure – which will help ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking – is supported by trafficking survivors, anti-human trafficking advocates and law enforcement50 Attorneys General, the civil rights communityfaith-based groups, the larger tech community, and courts and judges who have made clear that it is Congress’ responsibility to act to protect sex trafficking victims. Here’s what some SESTA supporters are saying about the Senate’s efforts to help combat human trafficking:

“The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children applauds Senate passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 1865), which ensures that children trafficked for sex online can have their day in court against online traffickers and clarifies that no one who participates in the sex trafficking of children is immune from legal scrutiny.  Consistent with NCMEC’s mission, this legislation provides a powerful tool to further the rights of child victims, while protecting the work of those who share our mission to reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization.  Thank you to the sponsors—Senators Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal along with Representatives Ann Wagner and Mimi Walters in the House of Representatives—for their strong leadership to get this essential legislation passed.  We look forward to President Trump signing it into law and stand ready to work with Congress, the Administration, and most importantly, the survivors, their families and the lawyers who work to provide them with access to justice, on implementation of the bill.”John F. Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

“Thank you for your tireless efforts and leadership on legislation that enables state and local law enforcement officials and survivors of human trafficking to take legal action against individuals or businesses that are knowingly violating federal sex trafficking laws. Senate passage of H.R. 1865, FOSTA-SESTA, as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 388-25, is critical if we are going to help stop the scourge of human trafficking.” – Joe Racalto, Director of Government Relations, Polaris

“Rights4Girls applauds the U.S. Senate for taking historic action today on behalf of trafficking victims. For years, websites that facilitate and profit from child sex trafficking have been shielded from accountability, allowing online trafficking to proliferate and leaving survivors without legal recourse. Today, the Senate stood with survivors and helped pave a necessary path to justice by making clear that these websites should not be immune from civil and criminal liability. We are immensely grateful to Senators Portman and Blumenthal for their fearless leadership on this legislation, as well as to Senators Cornyn, Heitkamp, McCain, and McCaskill for their unwavering commitment to trafficking victims and the restoration of their rights. Finally, we thank Senate Leadership for prioritizing a vote on this historic legislation, and we stand with the survivor community in eagerly awaiting its enactment into law.” – Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director of Rights4Girls

“To the websites that for years have hidden behind Section 230 and profited from the sale of vulnerable women and children, know that your time has run out. Survivors have led the movement to make FOSTA-SESTA a reality, with the bold leadership of Sens. Portman and Blumenthal, Reps. Wagner and Walters, and so many others. Today, we celebrate not simply a legislative victory, but a significant change in our response to sexual exploitation.” – Lauren Hersh, National Director and Co-Founder of WorldWE

“Sex trafficking on the internet is a growing threat to vulnerable women and children in every state, city and house – in America and abroad. Shared Hope International has worked for many years to bring justice to the victims and their families and to stop this crime. The Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 will bring resolution to the showdown between the Communications Decency Act’s protections for certain internet businesses and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s human rights protections. This bipartisan legislation will restore the promise of access to justice to these victims and hold offending websites culpable for their crimes.” – Former Congresswoman Linda Smith, Founder and President of Shared Hope International

“FAIR Girls, an organization that has worked with more than 1000 survivors of human trafficking - the vast majority who were sold online - applauds the efforts of Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with the other co-sponsors, in leading the passage of the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (SESTA). FAIR Girls is proud to have been part of the tireless, bi-partisan advocacy that brought about the passage of SESTA. For far too long, survivors of sex trafficking have been exploited by online providers who have profited from their unimaginable trauma while hiding behind the Communications Decency Act. With the passage of SESTA today, we are one step closer to giving victims of sex trafficking a pathway to justice and accountability they deserve against those who have knowingly facilitated their serial rape for profit.” – Erin Andrews, Executive Director of FAIR Girls

On behalf of the many Jane Doe children, their mothers and families, many of whom were portrayed in the documentary film, I AM JANE DOE, we wish to thank Senator Rob Portman and Senator Richard Blumenthal for their extraordinary leadership and tireless efforts to insure justice for our community of children and survivors.  Several middle school children had filed suit (Doe v Backpage) against, where they had been bought and sold for commercial sex. In a stunning decision, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling that even if Backpage had actively participated in the crime of child sex trafficking, the company was protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (a 1996 law which protects website operators from liability for publishing third party content). The court also advised the child plaintiffs to seek a legislative remedy.  The children have done just that. And Congress has now answered.  HR 1865 makes it clear that judges can no longer dismiss the claims of sex trafficking victims under Section 230 when the website publisher has knowingly facilitated the crime of sex trafficking.  This legislation could not have happened without the leadership of Senators Claire McCaskill, John McCain, Heidi Heitkamp and John Cornyn, who all answered the call of the children, forming a remarkable bipartisan coalition in the Senate dedicated to solving this problem.  And we wish to give a special thanks to Representative Ann Wagner, who was the first member of Congress to promise the children she would rectify the 1st Circuit decision. This effort could not have happened without her passion and persistence, or without the leadership of Representatives Mimi Walters, Kevin McCarthy, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Carolyn Maloney.  And finally, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the incredible resolve and strength of Cindy McCain who worked day and night on behalf of the children. On this day, Congress responded to the most vulnerable among us.  And for that, we will be forever indebted.” – Mary Mazzio, 50 EGGS FILMS (writer and producer of I AM JANE DOE)

“The tremendous victory that child victims of sexual exploitation enjoyed today was not inevitable.  Senators Portman and Blumenthal and their small bipartisan group saw this bill through in spite of powerful, well-funded opposition.  We are so proud of their work, and so proud to be a part of this effort.  There is much more to do to end child sexual exploitation in this country and around the globe. But today we can celebrate a win for justice, and a win for bipartisanship, and a win for victimized children who so richly deserve it.” Carol Smolenski, Executive Director, ECPAT USA 

“I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to advise you of our strong support for H.R. 1865, the ‘Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,’ which includes language from S. 1693, the ‘Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act,’ which the FOP also supports. … This legislation will allow law enforcement to investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses that advertise or facilitate sex trafficking more effectively.” – Chuck Canterberry, President of the National Fraternal Order of Police

“Our companies have steadfastly supported SESTA, sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and now co-sponsored by 66 other Senators. … As responsible U.S. companies, we believe it is time to address this urgent problem. This legislation has been thoughtfully and carefully shaped through the legislative process to provide limited, controlled exceptions to the CDA immunity provision that will help policymakers, law enforcement, and victims combat this illicit criminal activity.”Letter from Christopher A. Padilla, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for IBM; Kenneth Glueck, Senior Vice President in the Office of the CEO for Oracle; Maria Cino, Vice President, Americas & U.S. Government Relations for Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Richard Bates, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for The Walt Disney Company; Chip Smith, Executive Vice President of Global Public Affairs for 21st Century Fox; and Kent Knutson, Vice President of Government Relations for The Home Depot