The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) is now the law. President Trump signed the bill Wednesday morning.
FOSTA allows law enforcement to crack down on websites that facilitate sex trafficking and prostitution. Previous laws held that website owners were protected from prosecution based on content posted by third-party users. Those protections have now been removed.
The response has been swift. Craigslist shut down its personals section a few weeks ago. Last week federal authorities seized Backpage.com and arrested the website’s owner. The site was one of the most popular prostitution message boards in the world before it was shuttered.
“Trafficking is probably worse today than at any time in our history,” the president said. “You are not alone.”
The bill gained bipartisan support but it remains controversial. Tech companies argue that holding them responsible for what users post cripples their business. Congressmen and women argue that sites like Backpage and Craigslist knew exactly what was going on. The site owners well aware that prostitution was rampant on their platforms.
“Those women and children that have been sold with impunity by Backpage for 15 years,” Rep. Ann Wagner told CNN.
“This legislation is going to give prosecutors the tools that they need to make sure that no online website, platform, business can ever reach the size and scope of Backpage.com… Thirty-plus websites and online platforms have either shut down or had major policy changes… Escorts in College, Massage Troll, Erotic Review, Night Shift, CityVibe, My Scarlet Book.”
Sex workers are complaining bitterly about the bill. Some of the women selling their bodies online were being manipulated, but others were acting freely. Those women say that shutting down Backpage cuts into their income.
Congress cared more about the plight of the girls and women who were coerced.
“People can order up little girls to a hotel room as easy as they could takeout,” Wagner said.
(Source: New York Post)