In a new CNN op-ed, Caryl M. Stern, president and CEO of UNICEF USA, urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The legislation, which now has more than 60 cosponsors, is supported by trafficking survivors, anti-human trafficking advocates and law enforcement, 50 Attorneys General, the civil rights community, faith-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. Says Stern in the piece:

“Ending child trafficking and exploitation online is everybody's business, and all those who play a role in enabling this horrific crime should be held accountable. However, courts have ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides legal protection to website operators, shielding them from state and civil liability for criminal activities conducted by third parties on their platforms.

“Even when classified ads websites have been accused of knowingly allowing and facilitating child sex advertising, the existing legislation has consistently protected [Backpage] from criminal charges. This means that victims of online child sex trafficking face enormous challenges in obtaining justice. …

“As president and CEO of UNICEF USA, I applaud Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for leading on this [SESTA] legislation. I am proud to be part of a global effort to protect children from violence in all its forms and put an end to the exploitation of children.

“Let's work together to harness the opportunities of the digital age while taking the measures to protect children from trafficking and other threats they can encounter online. Unless we act now to keep pace with and find innovative solutions to rapidly evolving risks online, we will leave children more vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. Passing SESTA is a step toward building a safer internet and a better future for all children.”

NOTE: Portman, who serves as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led an 18-month-long bipartisan investigation into the scourge of online sex trafficking along with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The widely-praised investigation produced a stunning report detailing how Backpage knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and children and covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. The report led Portman to craft SESTA to ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and hold accountable websites such as Backpage.com, which knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking. He discussed his legislation in a recent floor speech and in this video highlighting a rally of SESTA supporters urging the Senate to pass this bill.

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