Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). I appreciate hearing from you.
In January 2017, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) issued a report that found that the website Backpage had knowingly facilitated and profited from the criminal sex trafficking of women and girls. Although there are penalties for sex trafficking available under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, federal courts have ruled that websites like Backpage cannot be held liable under current law because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects online platforms from liability for third-party content published on their sites. Section 230 is an important provision of law that has helped many Internet services, including social media platforms, grow and shape the Internet as we know it today. However, I am concerned that in a limited number of cases, like those involving platforms that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, Section 230 may be protecting online platforms from being held accountable for their wrongful or criminal behavior, an outcome not intended by Congress when Section 230 was enacted.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio introduced S. 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, on August 1, 2017. The legislation amends Section 230 to ensure that those who run sites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held accountable for their actions in civil or criminal court. Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri introduced H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) on April 3, 2017. This bill imposes criminal penalties on a person who facilitates sex trafficking in interstate commerce.
These bills together passed the Senate by a vote of 97-2 on March 21, 2018. I voted for these bills because I believe they were narrowly written to strike the proper balance between protecting Internet speech and ensuring that victims of sex trafficking can seek the justice they deserve.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, http://casey.senate.gov. I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
United States Senator
Bloggers Note: Well – At least Senator Casey responded to my call, that is more than Toomey’s Office. So I am grateful for the detailed response, though still feel a definite divide between those of us who have lived it, and those who say they represent all of our best interests. Who is our voice in Harrisburg?