House Passes Wagner Bill, Takes Major Step Forward In Fight To End Online Sex Trafficking

Feb 27, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and bill cosponsors Congresswoman Mimi Walters (CA-45), Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH3), released the below statements following House passage of H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).  

“Today, when the House of Representatives voted to pass FOSTA, we sent a clear message to trafficking victims: you are not alone, and justice is no longer out of reach,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02). “FOSTA will produce more prosecutions of bad actor websites, more convictions, and put more predators behind bars. It will give victims a pathway to justice and provide a meaningful criminal deterrent, so that fewer businesses will ever enter the sex trade, and fewer victims will ever be sold. Today, because of the hard work and dedication of the Judiciary Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, House Leadership, my staff, and my many colleagues, we have passed legislation that will be transformative in the fight to end online sex trafficking. I would also like to thank the brave survivors, dozens of advocacy groups, and tech organizations who came together to find a solution. I encourage the Senate to take swift action on this legislation to ensure that victims have a pathway to justice and that the businesses that sell our children online can no longer do so with impunity.”

“This Congress will continue the fight to end human trafficking and support the victims of this heinous crime,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “The work Congresswoman Wagner has done on behalf of every victim of this crime should be applauded. It shines a light onto the darkest corners of the internet to make sure we can hold anyone who supports trafficking in any way accountable. Together, we can take huge strides toward ending human trafficking. Today’s bill by Ann will greatly help in that fight.”

“Today, the House voted to hold accountable those who knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking activities. The modern day slave trade of human trafficking operates in the shadows of communities across the country, including Orange County,” said Congresswoman Mimi Walters. “I am pleased that the legislation passed by the House today will support sex trafficking survivors in their quest for justice by making it illegal for websites to knowingly participate in any venture that promotes this heinous crime. I urge my Senate colleagues to quickly pass this legislation and put an end to sex trafficking in this country.”

“The House took a big step today in the fight to combat online sex trafficking by passing this bill that Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) and I introduced,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “For too long, websites like Backpage.com that actively facilitate sex trafficking advertising have been able to escape accountability for their roles in selling trafficking victims, thanks to ambiguity in our federal laws. FOSTA corrects that by making it clear that internet companies that facilitate sex trafficking are not shielded by federal law, while also giving states better tools to crack down on these horrendous crimes and empowering trafficking survivors and their families to seek justice. I hope this bipartisan legislation will pass in the Senate with broad bipartisan support as it did in the House.”

“As the lead Democratic sponsor of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, H.R. 1865, I am proud to be a leader in the bipartisan effort to end the scourge of human trafficking,” said Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. “This bill will help do precisely that by strengthening current law, ensuring justice for more victims, and holding accountable both the trafficker and those who facilitate sex trafficking. I am proud to join Congresswoman Wagner in passing this critically important bill through the House of Representatives and will continue to do everything in my power to see that it ultimately becomes law.” 

SUPPORTERS OF FOSTA-SESTA INCLUDE:

Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Center on Missing & Exploited Children, Facebook, IBM, Oracle, HP Enterprise, Mastercard, ECPAT USA, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Shared Hope, Polaris, Rights4Girls, New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, FAIR Girls, The Center for Family and Human Rights, American Hotel & Lodging Association, Operation Texas Shield, #FightForUs, Concerned Women for America, U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, Enough Is Enough, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, The Covering House, Consumer Watchdog, Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now, S.A.F.E., Crisis Aid International, National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis, Coalition to Abolish Human Trafficking (Spokane, Washington), The Houston 20, the Austin 20, Houston Area Women’s Center, Freedom Church Alliance, Unbound Houston, Center for Success and Independence, Rescue Houston, Anti-Trafficking Alliance, the Refuge for DMST, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church-Houston, Passion for Humanity, Childproof America, With You In Mind, YWCA Houston, 1st Priority Search and Recovery, Love People Not Pixels, Boundless Mercy, Home of Hope-Texas, Not In Our City, Elijah Rising, Missouri Juvenile Justice Association, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Southern Baptist Convention, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Missouri KidsFirst

BACKGROUND:

In recent years, sex trafficking has moved from the streets to the internet. But law enforcement and victims can’t hold the websites that sell our children accountable. H.R. 1865 would give federal, state, and local prosecutors the tools they need to hold websites accountable for supporting the sale of sex trafficking victims. It would allow prosecutors to use both state sex trafficking laws and promotion of prostitution laws to prosecute websites that sell victims of trafficking, in addition to providing a new federal crime that is specifically tailored to how bad actor websites are engaging in the online sex trade. The Walters Amendment, endorsed by Congresswoman Ann Wagner, reinstates critical, pro-victim sections of the original bill, including provisions from S. 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. The Amendment would clarify that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not impair or limit victims of sex trafficking from using their private right of action against the websites that sell them; amend the federal sex trafficking statute to define “participation in a venture” in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s 2016 decision in Jane Doe vs. Backpage.com [backpage.com], LLC; and allow State Attorneys General to bring civil actions on behalf of sex trafficking victims.