President Donald Trump signed into law today legislation that criminalizes the use of the internet to advertise prostitution and child sex trafficking.
The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, known as FOSTA, closes gaps in past legislation that prosecutors, law enforcement and lawmakers say gave internet service providers and websites too much latitude to host and share content that advertised prostitution, with little fear of prosecution.
Trump signed FOSTA in the Oval Office, surrounded by survivors of online sex trafficking and members of Congress from both parties.
“If it’s a crime offline, it’s a crime online,” said Rep. Ann Wagner, R-MO, in remarks during the signing ceremony. “This is going to do to give prosecutors, the Department of Justice, state and local district attorneys the ability to go after and shut down these websites and put people behind bars, give victims the justice they deserve.”
“You’ve endured what no person on Earth should ever have to endure,” said Trump, referring to survivors of sex trafficking, “and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that traffickers are brought to a swift and firm justice.
The legislation, which had broad bipartisan support, makes clarifications to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Enacted when the internet was in its infancy, the CDA gave internet service providers and websites wide latitude to transmit and share most content.
Language in FOSTA states that the “Communications Decency Act of 1996 was never intended to provide legal protection to websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”
FOSTA explicitly criticizes websites that skirted the CDA. It says, “Websites that promote and facilitate prostitution have been reckless in allowing the sale of sex trafficking victims and have done nothing to prevent the trafficking of children and victims of force, fraud, and coercion.”
Under the new law, violators can face fines, be ordered to pay restitution, and serve time in prison. Sentences can range from 10 to 25 years, depending on the severity of the crime and the number of people trafficked.
RMPBS has reported extensively on child sex trafficking and the emotional toll child pornography has on victims, families and investigators.
In a special report, Traded and Trafficked, RMPBS correspondent Lori Jane Gliha highlighted cases in Colorado that had connections to Backpage.com.
To learn more about child sex trafficking in Colorado, view the full report and listen to the podcast at rmpbs.org/insight/traded-and-trafficked/.
To learn more about the growing cases of child pornography across the state, view the special report by John Ferrugia, Rescuing the Innocent, and read a guide for families on how to protect their children, at rmpbs.org/insight/rescuing.