Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (H.R 1865)

Fighting sex trafficking is not a new endeavor. In the world’s dark history of slavery, sex trafficking has always been there.. As a nation, we have laws and penalties in place to prevent and punish such behavior but they are by no means foolproof. Enter into the law books, H.R. 1865, which will help close a glaring gap between old legislation and the fast-paced technological world we live in.

Way back in 1934, a law was passed in an attempt to protect mass media forms so they could flourish. For instance, a radio station couldn’t be held liable if they played a commercial that contained false advertising or if the product harmed others. From an industry standpoint, this makes perfect sense: media are in the business of spreading information, entertainment, etc. They are not in the business of verifying the products and services that pay them for advertising. In 1996, the Communications Act was amended to include websites so that they were also protected from liability for content that they published but was not actually created by them. As you can imagine, this protection was never meant to shield websites from publishing content which thereby facilitated in sex trafficking. And since you are legally responsible if you allow or facilitate underage-drinking in your home, no matter who supplied the alcohol, certainly we should hold websites liable for publishing content which facilitates criminal behavior. It’s just common sense.

H.R. 1865 will work to fix the current loophole by:

  1. Imposing a fine or up to 10 years in prison, or both
  2. For instances where 5 or more victims are involved and “reckless disregard” is shown, the prison term may be up to 25 years.
  3. Victims may be able to sue for damages and attorney fees in a U.S. district court
  4. Restitution will be ordered by the court when 5 or more victims are involved and this will be in addition to civil or criminal penalties.

As much as I hate to write it, there is a section which allows for an approved defense that the promotion or facilitation of sex trafficking is legal where it occurred. It makes me sick to my stomach that it’s legal ANYWHERE but that’s the globally connected world we live in.

This law is not meant to limit any charges brought under State law and the amendments will be apply to all violations of the law no matter if they happened before or after the enactment of this law. State Attorneys General also have the authority to bring civil action against violators of this law if they believe it has negatively affected the residents of their State.

In order to measure the success of this law, a report will be published 3 years after the law in enacted. This report will detail civil actions in which damages were awarded, actions in which damages were not awarded, all restitution ordered by the Court, and details regarding the status of every entity convicted of violating this law and whether or not they were ordered to pay restitution.

While this legislation is in regards to sex trafficking, not all human trafficking involves the sex trade. See below for possible indicators of trafficking victims. Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline1-888-373-7888 to report a tip or ask questions. Information is also available on state.gov.

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