The “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” is a piece of bipartisan legislation drafted to hold websites more accountable for illegal sex activity that takes place online. The tech industry is against the legislation because it’s looking out for its own interests, and it’s wary of giving up legal protections it has enjoyed for the past 20 years.
Why aren’t websites held accountable already?
Past court decisions have upheld Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has protected websites like Backpage.com from claims of liability for sex trafficking that takes place through its site. The authors of this new legislation argue that Section 230 wasn’t meant to protect sites like Backpage that enable sex trafficking.
What would this bill change?
According to the bill’s summary:
- Allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that facilitated the crimes against them;
- Eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support, or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws; and
- Enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.
According to Recode, a tech news website, the bill will be discussed at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Sept. 19, which could take it another step closer to being voted on.
Who sponsored the bill?
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)