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Legislative Update

Goodlatte applauds the enactment of legislation to combat online sex trafficking

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Trump signed into law the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), a product of the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation provides restitution for sex trafficking victims and enhances criminal penalties for websites that facilitate illegal prostitution or sex trafficking. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) applauded the enactment of FOSTA in the statement below.

Goodlatte: “I applaud President Trump for signing into law legislation that combats the scourge of online sex trafficking. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act is already having an immediate impact to end these terrible crimes. In the days after Congress passed FOSTA, numerous websites advertising prostitution shut down because of the strong criminal provisions contained in the bill. And this week, an indictment was unsealed in the District of Arizona charging the operators of Backpage.com with a variety of offenses, mainly focused on facilitating prostitution. This demonstrates why the House approach will be the most effective tool in the bill to allow state and local prosecutors to bring these types of charges against prostitution websites that host sex trafficking ads. FOSTA provides harsher penalties for bad actor websites that facilitate these horrendous criminal acts and it reaffirms, in the strongest terms, that selling women and girls is wrong and will not be tolerated. The enactment of FOSTA will make the internet safer, dismantle this insidious market, and prevent further victimization.”

What FOSTA does:

  • Holds Bad Actors Accountable: clarifies that section 230 of the CDA does NOT grant immunity to websites that facilitate sex trafficking
  • Creates a New Federal Crime: websites that have the intent to promote or facilitate illegal prostitution can be prosecuted under the new 18 U.S.C 2421A created by the bill
  • Increases Criminal Penalties: prosecutors can seek higher penalties for websites who promote the illegal prostitution of 5 or more persons or act with reckless disregard for the fact that sex trafficking occurs on their website
  • Enforces Existing Laws: allows state and local prosecutors to enforce sex trafficking statutes and the new 2421A
  • Provides Restitution for Victims: gives victims of sex trafficking a pathway to sue bad actor websites for conduct violating the new criminal law, 2421A

Background: The House Judiciary Committee last year held a hearing to review the impact of the Communications Decency Act on sex trafficking online. In December 2017, the Committee approved FOSTA by voice vote, and the House of Representatives approved it in February 2018.

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