The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly passed the anti-sex trafficking legislation, H.R. 1865, which contains the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), by a vote of 97 to 2.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse released the following statement. Sasse co-sponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, the companion legislation in the Senate.

“Even in Nebraska, human traffickers are pushing the dark underworld of sex-slavery. Victims, women and often young children, are forced to endure unimaginable physical pain and emotional duress. While there is no one federal fix that will completely end these injustices, this legislation is an important step. By targeting websites that profit off of these horrors, we are helping to hold bad actors accountable and close the online pathway that sex traffickers have recently turned to in droves. Modern sex-slavery must be confronted head on in our communities.”

Senator Deb Fischer also made comment on the passage of the legislation.

“Sex trafficking is an unconscionable practice and it’s happening closer to home than we even realize. Certain websites, like Backpage.com, have provided safe harbor for criminals who exploit women and children. By passing this bill today, the Senate is taking action to empower human trafficking survivors and bring the perpetrators of these monstrous crimes to justice,” Fischer said.


Senator Portman (R-Ohio) introduced SESTA following his subcommittee’s investigation of Backpage.com, an online classified-advertisement service, for its role in knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. The investigation found Backpage.com clearly was aware that its site enabled sex trafficking, and that it created content by editing advertisements to hide illegal activity conducted on its site. However, in current law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) has been interpreted broadly, effectively protecting such nefarious online behavior from civil and criminal penalties.

 

H.R. 1865, which consists of both SESTA and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Trafficking Act (FOSTA), includes the following major provisions:

 

Provides that Section 230 of the CDA does not give blanket immunity to providers and users of websites for violations of sex and human trafficking laws.

Clarifies current sex trafficking law that prohibits knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating a sex trafficking violation.

Affirms that state attorneys general can bring civil actions against perpetrators of sex trafficking.

Creates a new federal crime of promoting or facilitating prostitution or sex trafficking over the internet.