On April 11, 2018, President Trump signed into law the House bill named Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), also known as the Senate billStop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The bill targets websites like Backpage, advertisers, and social media networks that unlawfully promote and facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation of victims. By ensuring the ability to enforce federal and state criminal and civil law relating to sex trafficking, the bill gives tools that prosecutors need to hold violators responsible. It also allows survivors to recover damages against these companies.
Earlier in the week before the bill became law, several Backpage executives were indicted on charges that the website allegedly promoted selling underage girls for sex, facilitated prostitution, and laundered millions of dollars in profits. Backpage has argued in the past that these advertisements are “free speech” protected by the Constitution.
Technology has become a dangerous tool for exploiters to facilitate sex trafficking. Websites and social media are full of advertisements for sex work, including victims (often underage) who are forced into sex trafficking. The federal indictment of Backpage officials one girl who was sexually exploited on Backpage from 14 to 19 years of age. She indicated that she was gang raped, choked, and forced to perform sex acts at gunpoint.
This historic law was possible through the bipartisan efforts of legislators and the hard work of survivors, advocates, and nonprofit organizations. In order to end child trafficking, there remains so much more work to be done. ZOE International is committed to this goal through the prevention, rescue, and restoration of trafficking survivors.