October 4, 2018
Press Release
October 4, 2018
Contact: T.W. Arrighi
(202) 225-5611

Rep. Walters Continues Fight to Help Sex Trafficking Survivors Seek Justice

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-California) released the following statement regarding the inclusion of language addressing online sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, and prostitution in the United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA).  Rep. Walters worked closely with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure her trafficking legislation, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), is enforced in the USMCA as part of our Nation’s commitment to ending human trafficking.  SESTA-FOSTA was signed into law in April.

Read the USMCA trafficking provisions, Annex 19-A, here.

Said Rep. Mimi Walters, “My SESTA legislation made it abundantly clear that websites that knowingly traffic individuals online can – and must – be held responsible for these illegal activities.  I’m pleased the USTR recognizes the importance of my efforts to put an end to trafficking, and took steps to ensure Mexico and Canada, our top trade partners and key allies, protect individuals from online sex trafficking.  As we move forward with other trade agreements, I’ll continue my unwavering commitment to putting an end to this despicable crime.”

Background

In March 2017, a large-scale international sex trafficking ring facilitated through Backpage.com was uncovered in Irvine, California.  Prior to the enactment of SESTA-FOSTA, websites that hosted sex trafficking advertisements were immune from prosecution because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  Section 230 was written to protect websites from being held responsible for any type of content posted online by users.  However, the courts interpreted Section 230 to shield websites from prosecution, not just for content, but also for criminal conduct, like human trafficking.  The intent of Section 230 was not to shield bad actors or allow criminal conduct online.

SESTA amends Section 230 to allow sex trafficking survivors to seek justice by enabling them to pursue federal civil claims against websites that knowingly promote, support, or facilitate online sex trafficking.  FOSTA gives state and local prosecutors better tools to disrupt online sex trafficking by criminalizing the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person. 

 

Walters represents California’s 45th District and serves on the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the House Ethics Committee.

Jeanette Litschewski