A bill that gives prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims better support for taking legal action against websites that post online sex ads is headed to the president’s desk.
The Senate followed the House last week in passing the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The bill seeks to clarify language in the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which advocates have long argued shields sites like Backpage.com from criminal and civil penalties for facilitating trafficking.
Two mothers whose teenage daughters were trafficked through Backpage ads gave emotional testimony to Congress in support of the legislation after their legal battles against the website failed. Backpage has successfully defended itself against any prosecution by citing a small section of the CDA that says online intermediaries that host or republish speech aren’t responsible for what their customers say and do.
Many websites responded immediately, even though the new law hasn’t taken effect yet. Craigslist and Reddit shuttered their personal ad sections hours after the Senate passed the bill. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure. —Gaye Clark