Portman, Blumenthal, McCain, McCaskill, Cornyn, Heitkamp Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Help End Online Sex Trafficking

February 27, 2018 | Press Releases

Bipartisan SESTA Included in House Bill to Ensure Justice for Trafficking Survivors and Hold Accountable Websites That Knowingly Facilitate Sex Trafficking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) praised the House of Representatives for passing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as part of a broader House effort to help end online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims: 

“I am pleased that the House voted unanimously to pass the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act,” said Senator Portman.  “This bipartisan effort will help stop online sex trafficking, ensure justice for trafficking survivors, and hold accountable websites like Backpage.com that knowingly facilitate these crimes. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this bipartisan bill and send it to the president’s desk so we can allow trafficking survivors to get the justice they deserve but have long been denied.”

“Strong support of our Stop Enabling Sex Trafficker Act in the House should encourage quick action in the Senate,” said Senator Blumenthal.  “Our bipartisan bill would empower sex trafficking survivors and hold accountable online enablers of this unthinkable crime. Now that the House has acted, the Senate should waste no time in approving our legislation and swinging open the courthouse doors for survivors.”

“I applaud the House for passing legislation today that would provide victims of sex trafficking the justice they deserve,” said Senator McCain. “This bill includes long-overdue changes to current law that has for too long protected Backpage and other websites from being held liable for enabling these horrific crimes. Today’s passage shows that there is broad, bipartisan support to change the status quo and hold all those facilitating online sex trafficking accountable. I urge the Senate to quickly take up and pass this much-needed bill.”

“Combating sex trafficking is a bipartisan, all-hands-on-deck battle, one in which we fought Backpage to the Supreme Court and won, and the overwhelming vote of support in the House puts us one step closer to passing into law a bill to stop the next Backpage,” said Senator McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “Incorporating our bipartisan bill into the House version is the right move and exactly what we need to be doing to finally ensure victims can have their day in court and that we can hold accountable those who traffic children for sex.”

“The internet should not be a platform for human traffickers to facilitate modern-day slavery,” Senator Cornyn said. “I commend the House for taking this important step to ensure victims of this horrific crime are able to get the justice they deserve.”

“No company should knowingly facilitate illegal sex trafficking online, let alone make a profit from it. Websites like Backpage.com shouldn’t be allowed to shamefully hide behind the First Amendment to shield those who sell children for sex, and they must be held accountable,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Our bipartisan bill would help crack down on the horrific abuse of enslaved men, women, and even children permitted by these sites. Today marks an important step in the effort to allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against these websites and to empower state law enforcement to confront those who callously violate federal trafficking laws, and I hope that we can now take this up in the Senate in short order so that we may provide victims and prosecutors these expanded capabilities as soon as possible.”

NOTE: The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act in November. The bill, which now has 67 cosponsors, 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.