WASHINGTON — Congress should quickly pass a Senate bill to make it easier to take legal action against websites that support or encourage sex trafficking rather than a similar House bill, the Senate bill’s sponsors said Thursday, claiming the House version doesn’t go far enough in protecting against trafficking.
In November, the Senate Commerce Committee in November approved the proposal by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
At a briefing, Portman said sex trafficking has moved online in recent years, and the bill aims to eliminate the immunity that such websites have under the Communications Act of 1934.
Lauren Hersch, national director of World Without Exploitation, said the bill would give survivors the resources they need to prosecute sex traffickers.
“This is an issue that has a human face, this is not … a complex issue that’s happening somewhere else,” Hersch said. “This is happening in our backyards to our young people, and we urgently must make a change here.”
Critics of the bill argue that it would hurt legitimate websites not used for trafficking by removing the legal protections that websites hold regarding content posted by third parties. Such critics have backed a competing House bill that they believe keep the legal protections intact.
However, supporters of the Senate measure say the House version does not go far enough to protect survivors and potential future victims.
“We will not accept a watered-down version of SESTA,” McCaskill said.
Blumenthal said the bill is about “saving lives.”