On MSNBC, Portman Highlights How New SESTA Law Will Help End Online Sex Trafficking

April 11, 2018 | Press Releases

Senator Portman discussed his bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which was just signed into law earlier today by President Trump, during an interview today with Ali Velshi on MSNBC. The legislation will help ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and hold accountable websites like Backpage.com which knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. It passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2 last month. Portman also discussed Syria and the need for a multinational coalition to respond to the recent atrocities.

Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.


It is a victory for the victims and survivors of trafficking. When we first started on this a few years ago, as you recall, we were told there was very little chance that we could be successful primarily because the tech companies, for the most part, were opposed. I believe they were opposed because they thought this was much more broad reaching than it actually is. It’s a very narrowly crafted statute. It deals with sex trafficking only, and it has a standard of knowing. In other words, you have to be knowingly involved, supporting, engaging in sex trafficking. But it’s had an enormous impact already. There are websites that have shut down. We think, actually, that more than two-thirds of the trafficking websites have gone offline now and it is because they're worried about the lawsuits. Not just from the local prosecutors and state attorneys general who can now sue them for the first time, but also because of the victims’ ability to have their day in court…

“As you know because you follow this story, the reason that we got engaged in this several years ago, we were hearing increasingly back home that trafficking was increasing. So here we are in this country, in this century, seeing more sex trafficking than ever. Why? The experts all agree it was because of the online presence. The ruthless efficiency of online trafficking of women and children. And so we had to go here because this is where the problem was. And we’ll see what happens, but my view is that, you know, this will stem some of the increase, of course, but also actually save future generations of, you know, women and girls and boys from being trafficked. And it does it in a way that I think is very sensible. Now with regard to the concern about the internet freedom, I share that concern. In fact, we keep in our legislation ‘Good Samaritan’ provision. If you’re on a site trying to clean up your site, trying to edit your site to help deal with this issue, you are totally protected by the ‘Good Samaritan’ provision. There is a safe harbor for you. But for those who are knowingly engaged in this, who would be arrested for it and jailed if they were to do it on a street corner, you don’t want to allow them to do it online.


“I think we need to respond, and I think we need to respond in international manner. In other words, I think it would be likely that if we have some of the Arab countries joining us, some of our European partners joining us that we’ll be much more successful avoiding this ever happening again. We need to step forward and respond, but let’s internationalize it to the extent possible. I think it’s actually quite possible to do that because it seems to me there is an international outrage of what is going on, as there was last time, as there was the time before when we didn’t act. But my hope is that in addition to our NATO allies we can actually get some of the countries in the region to participate as well… Let’s take our time. I don’t mean a matter of weeks, a matter of days. But let’s take our time to get all the facts, to get as many of our allies as possible engaged in this, provide them the facts. My understanding is from what I know about this is that it's very clear who was involved and who is responsible. But let’s do it right.”