President Donald Trump signed a measure Wednesday aimed at curbing online sex trafficking. The bipartisan House Resolution 1865, also known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, allows victims of sex trafficking to hold websites accountable for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.
Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, co-sponsored the legislation and expressed support for its signing.
“I’m very pleased this bipartisan bill was signed into law,” he said. “Sex and human trafficking are some of the most heinous crimes committed against victims, which are disproportionately children or women. This new law targets online services and other technology used by these criminals to exploit and abuse their victims. Additionally, it increases penalties for individuals who intentionally participate in this trade. As a former law enforcement officer, I’m a proud cosponsor of this common-sense bill and look forward to continue working to protect our community.”
The legislation received support from members of both political parties, as well as advocacy organizations like Polaris, ECPAT USA and the National Center on Missing & Exploited Children. It was spurred from a Senate investigation into Backpage.com, the online classified ad site that had “knowingly concealed” evidence of criminal sex trafficking through its site and facilitated child sex trafficking, according to the Senate’s findings.
While there is no official estimate of the total number of victims in the United States, an estimate from Polaris puts the number of victims nationally “into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated,” according to polarisproject.org
Some sites facilitating sex trafficking have already shut down. Reddit has changed its policy “regarding paid services involving physical sexual contact” and Craigslist has closed down its personal ads section.
“Trafficking is probably worse today than at any time in our history,” President Trump said during the signing ceremony Wednesday. “You are not alone.”
The Senate approved the legislation March 21.