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house Bill H.R. 1865

Making it a Federal Crime for Websites to Promote Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Argument in favor

Congress needs to clarify that the Communications Decency Act doesn’t protect websites that promote the sex trafficking of children. This bill gives law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims the tools they need to bring sex traffickers and their enablers to justice.

Grant's Opinion
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02/26/2018
How is this not already a thing? As long as the wording is comprehensive and doesn’t allow for censorship of anything but the topic. This should have been passed long before.
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Susan's Opinion
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02/26/2018
I’m all for freedom of speech, but not for something illegal like spreading child prostitution or abuse of something like this.
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gutsy-spirit's Opinion
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02/26/2018
FOSTA-SESTA gets my vote. Although I understand the fear of “stifling small business” and mal-intentioned trolls, the legislation states that in order for the facilitator to be guilty, the facilitator needs to know about the advertisements for trafficking children OR have a reckless way of running the platform to where human trafficking is facilitated on their website. (Backpage.com is a modern-day slave auction where humans are being bought for as little as $90 and the facilitators of this site are aware and make millions of dollars from these ads.) Healthy start ups would simply have to be prepared to own the responsibility of keeping their websites clean of such degrading and inhumane ads. Real survivors of these auctions have tried to sue backpage.com and they were unsuccessful with the CDA granting the facilitator immunity. As Lincoln said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Please vote YES and hold these virtual slave auctions accountable for their inexcusable neglect to intervene and protect victims of human sex trafficking. For more information watch I Am Jane Doe on Netflix.
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Argument opposed

This bill as written is too vague and could apply to numerous web services that host user-submitted content, exposing them to criminal and civil liability for actions taken by users on their platform.

Clockwerk's Opinion
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02/25/2018
This bill, the way it is written, will only hurt smaller companies and stifle inovation as they will not have the money to protect themselves from a malicious user being able to shut down an entire site, since this would make the web site responsible for posted content. This is not a tenable solution.
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Randy's Opinion
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02/28/2018
I am as opposed to sex trafficking as anyone, but I don't believe the threat is as dire as some do. Prostitution, by itself, is a victimless crime. Sex trafficking, sex slavery, pimping, abuse, and related problems should be addressed, but I see no reason to oppose prostitution, per se. Many women earn a living escorting and probably the safest way for them to promote themselves is on websites. Online escorting is safer than streetwalking because it allows the providers to screen clients and avoid many attacks of opportunity. I haven't read this legislation carefully, but I am concerned it will be used to stifle prostitution, in general. That is why I am against it.
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Abbi's Opinion
···
02/26/2018
David Brock if I recall, shut down plenty of pro Bernie web sites in 2016. This bill could end in jail time for victims of such an attack. Fix the wording to go after the posters first then determine whether or not the page meant to distribute this filth. And S we do care about the victims but the wording is too vague, the one who posted the material needs to be the one charged they have the material which means they probably have more and should be investigated. Either they are a troll or a cog in the machine going after them may fight trafficking more effectively then attacking possible victims of porn hacking.
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bill Progress


  • EnactedApril 11th, 2018
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The senate Passed March 21st, 2018
    Roll Call Vote 97 Yea / 2 Nay
  • The house Passed February 27th, 2018
    Roll Call Vote 388 Yea / 25 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Communications and Technology
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedApril 3rd, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 1865?

This bill would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to allow state authorities to investigate and prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking under state sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children laws. It would make it a federal crime for any person or entity (like Backpage.com) that publishes information in furtherance of a sex trafficking offense through knowing or reckless conduct, which would be punishable a criminal fine and up to 20 years imprisonment. Victims would be allowed to pursue damages and attorneys’ fees by filing a civil suit in U.S. district court.

Defendants would be able to assert that the promotion or facilitation of prostitution is legal in the area where it was targeted as an affirmative defense. 

Enhanced penalties, including a fine and/or prison term of up to 25 years, would be established for a person who uses or operates a commercial facility to promote prostitution in one of the following aggravating circumstances: 1) promoting or facilitating the prostitution of five or more persons; or 2) acting with reckless disregard that such conduct contributes to sex trafficking.

Impact

Victims of sex trafficking; sex traffickers and those who facilitate their services; and states.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1865

The CBO estimates that enacting this bill would have an insignificant impact on the federal budget.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced this bill to clarify legal ambiguities that have prevented the federal government, states, and victims of sex trafficking from pursuing justice against sex traffickers and their enablers:

“I am honored to introduce this legislation on behalf of the countless children, women and men who have been sold into modern slavery and robbed of their dignity. Sex trafficking has no place in a just society, and bad actors who run these websites are criminals who belong in prison. Congress never intended for Section 230 to give a free pass to the retailers of America’s children, and we must address the judicial interpretation of the law and provide a voice for the most vulnerable in our society. This legislation gives U.S. law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and victims the tools they need to help dismantle the human trafficking trade in the United States.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) added:

“I am proud to join Congresswoman Ann Wagner in continuing our bipartisan effort to end the scourge of human trafficking. It is unbelievable that in 2017, web developers, digital advertisers and other companies are allowed to sidestep federal state and human trafficking laws and avoid prosecution because of legal ambiguity. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 will strengthen and clarify current law, ensuring justice for more victims and holding accountable both the trafficker and those who facilitate sex trafficking. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important piece of legislation passed and signed into law by the President.”

Critics of this bill and its companion in the Senate argue that its “sweepingly vague definition” could apply to “any number of services that host user-submitted content.” Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, wrote:

“what online services will be regulated other than Backpage? The press release accompanying the Senate bill draft references Backpage a half-dozen times. Is this law only about making sure a single company, Backpage, is dead dead dead? Or will the bill reach other online services? If so, who? The most likely answer is that this law potentially implicates every online service that deals with user-generated content, which would make this an unusually wide-ranging bill..”

This legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote and has the support of 174 bipartisan cosponsors, including 114 Republicans and 60 Democrats.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: coldsnowstorm / iStock)

AKA

Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017

Official Title

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to clarify that section 230 of such Act does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services of Federal and State criminal and civil law relating to sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking, and for other purposes.

    How is this not already a thing? As long as the wording is comprehensive and doesn’t allow for censorship of anything but the topic. This should have been passed long before.
    Like (178)
    Follow
    Share
    This bill, the way it is written, will only hurt smaller companies and stifle inovation as they will not have the money to protect themselves from a malicious user being able to shut down an entire site, since this would make the web site responsible for posted content. This is not a tenable solution.
    Like (102)
    Follow
    Share
    I’m all for freedom of speech, but not for something illegal like spreading child prostitution or abuse of something like this.
    Like (70)
    Follow
    Share
    FOSTA-SESTA gets my vote. Although I understand the fear of “stifling small business” and mal-intentioned trolls, the legislation states that in order for the facilitator to be guilty, the facilitator needs to know about the advertisements for trafficking children OR have a reckless way of running the platform to where human trafficking is facilitated on their website. (Backpage.com is a modern-day slave auction where humans are being bought for as little as $90 and the facilitators of this site are aware and make millions of dollars from these ads.) Healthy start ups would simply have to be prepared to own the responsibility of keeping their websites clean of such degrading and inhumane ads. Real survivors of these auctions have tried to sue backpage.com and they were unsuccessful with the CDA granting the facilitator immunity. As Lincoln said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Please vote YES and hold these virtual slave auctions accountable for their inexcusable neglect to intervene and protect victims of human sex trafficking. For more information watch I Am Jane Doe on Netflix.
    Like (50)
    Follow
    Share
    I am as opposed to sex trafficking as anyone, but I don't believe the threat is as dire as some do. Prostitution, by itself, is a victimless crime. Sex trafficking, sex slavery, pimping, abuse, and related problems should be addressed, but I see no reason to oppose prostitution, per se. Many women earn a living escorting and probably the safest way for them to promote themselves is on websites. Online escorting is safer than streetwalking because it allows the providers to screen clients and avoid many attacks of opportunity. I haven't read this legislation carefully, but I am concerned it will be used to stifle prostitution, in general. That is why I am against it.
    Like (45)
    Follow
    Share
    David Brock if I recall, shut down plenty of pro Bernie web sites in 2016. This bill could end in jail time for victims of such an attack. Fix the wording to go after the posters first then determine whether or not the page meant to distribute this filth. And S we do care about the victims but the wording is too vague, the one who posted the material needs to be the one charged they have the material which means they probably have more and should be investigated. Either they are a troll or a cog in the machine going after them may fight trafficking more effectively then attacking possible victims of porn hacking.
    Like (45)
    Follow
    Share
    Holding companies that sell hosting accountable for what others post is ridiculous. While I feel they should self monitor and are not doing that today, it still doesn’t merit government intervention.
    Like (32)
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    This law is too broadly written.
    Like (18)
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    Trafficking is one of the greatest issues that’s almost never discussed in the public forum.
    Like (17)
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    No because prostitution is a victimless crime. Now, if you want a separate bill focused solely on sex trafficking, we can discuss that separately.
    Like (15)
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    This law is far too vague and targets websites instead of the people that content is coming from. Personally I think prostitution should be legal and regulated accordingly, that would make things much safer. But obviously take down people who are partaking in sex trafficking and child pornography. We need laws to protect our women and children, but this is so incredibly vague and could cause more issues than it would really solve.
    Like (14)
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    This is common sense. Protect women!
    Like (10)
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    The language of this bill is poorly written and would allow “concerned citizen” activists to file suit against any website with questionable user content, effectively shutting down any small sites that may wish to allow legitimate content. This will have a chilling effect on innovation that has made the internet what it is. Think of a better way to do this necessary task.
    Like (10)
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    There are already laws in place for law enforcement. I appreciate what the two congresswomen are trying to accomplish, but this is not the way .
    Like (10)
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    Sex work is work! Protect the workers and protect their labor
    Like (10)
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    Yes any way we can protect the most vulnerable people in our country should be supported.These people need a voice and our protection.
    Like (8)
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    This will only hurt sex workers, not help.
    Like (8)
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    Sex trafficking is disgusting and wrong and even more so when it involves innocent, young, children. If this Bill can stop sex traffickers from further exploiting young children, I vote YES on this Bill.
    Like (7)
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    Backpage.com makes billions every year on the backs of sexually abused children... it’s time we start prosecuting.
    Like (7)
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    This is opening a very dangerous can of worms. Not every site has the money and resources to constantly moderate all the content being put on their site. They obviously should take it down when they find it but they shouldn't be charged for other people's actions
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