In front of a host of human trafficking survivors and their families, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill that will provide law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to obtain justice for human trafficking victims and hold websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking accountable.
“I want to thank the survivors and families who join us today. I’m signing this bill in your honor,” Trump said. “We are all together, politicians both Republicans and Democrats, in signing this bill and presenting this to you in your honor.”
The measure, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 97-2 last month, passed the House in February by a vote of 388-25 and is backed by a broad coalition of anti-trafficking advocates, law enforcement organizations, civil rights groups, faith-based advocates, and industry leaders on both sides of the aisle.
H.R. 1865 was introduced by U.S. Representative Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin and includes provisions from a similar Senate measure, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The bills passage comes after a bipartisan effort between Rep. Wagner and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, who reached across party lines to pass the legislation.
Rep. Wagner’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) targets online content that promotes or facilitates prostitution, making it punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“We are so excited and this is landmark legislation that is truly going to save lives, and it already is,” Wagner said. “I received a text message from the Manhattan DA last night that said we have already shut down 87 percent, 87 percent, of online sex trafficking ads out there, and we’re after the remaining 13 percent. It’s amazing what this is going to give prosecutors, the department of justice, state and local district attorneys the ability to go after and shut down these websites, put people behind bars and give victims the justice they deserve.”
The bill also received support from U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Misouri, who co-sponsored the bill and spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill last month.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that happens every day in our country, driven in large part by websites that operate as online marketplaces for sex traffickers,” Blunt said in a statement. “For too long, federal law has shielded websites that knowingly profit off the sexual exploitation of trafficking victims. This bill provides law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to seek justice for trafficking victims and hold websites that knowingly facilitate these crimes accountable. I commend Senator Rob Portman and Representative Ann Wagner for their leadership and tireless efforts to combat human trafficking.”
The passing of the legislation brought on a federal investigation into Backpage.com, which ultimately shut down the classified advertising website. Craigslist also removed its personal ads section shortly after the final vote. The new law will let state law enforcement officials to pursue sites that knowingly host sex trafficking content, and will allow victims to sue those sites.