Portman Praises Federal Indictment of CityXGuide Owner on Online Sex Trafficking Charges

Portman’s SESTA Law Made Indictment Possible

June 19, 2020 | Press Releases


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today praised the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox for seizing CityXGuide and indicting its owner Wilhan Martono, who DOJ described as “taking over from where Backpage left off.” Backpage was the market leader in commercial-sex advertising that has been linked to hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including trafficking of children. The DOJ took action against Backpage in 2018 following a two-year Portman-led investigation into Backpage and online sex trafficking by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs. The CityXGuide indictment was made possible by Portman’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), bipartisan legislation enacted in 2018 as part of a broader congressional effort to help stop online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims.  Portman issued the following statement:

“Sex traffickers who sell women and children online must be held accountable for their actions, and I applaud today’s action by the Justice Department against CityXGuide. This is good news for victims and survivors.  I’m pleased that my SESTA law made this indictment possible by clarifying that it is illegal to knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. The law also ensures that sex trafficking victims can seek justice through civil suits and that states may prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws. I will continue to work to ensure that no more women or children become victims of this terrible crime.”

NOTE: A two-year Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) inquiry, led by Portman and former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), culminated in a report entitled Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking,” which found that Backpage knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and children and then covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. 

The investigation led to the SESTA law, which 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 applauded Congress’s action to protect sex trafficking victims.  SESTA made two important changes: (1) it allows sex trafficking victims to get the justice they deserve by removing the law’s unintended liability protections specifically for websites that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking; and (2) it allows state and local law enforcement to prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws.