The rest of the city may have ground to a halt during Winter Storm Toby, but the House and Senate are still open for business. And one of the biggest priorities of the day is something we can all agree on: ending sex trafficking.
For Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), it’s been a goal she’d been working toward for the last several years. After meeting with young girls and studying the dark world of sex slavery, she was more convinced than ever that there was a lot more she and her colleagues could do. Ultimately, she settled on one. Hurting the business by hurting its advertisers.
Under a measure that sailed through the House 388-25, Rep. Wagner took a unique approach: holding the webpages who are advertising these girls accountable. Her Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act gives the government — and victims — the tools they need crackdown on websites like Backpage, who are knowingly selling people online. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thinks it’s past time for Congress do something about it. This legislation, he explained, would close “a loophole in existing law that allows websites to avoid responsibility even as they knowingly facilitate trafficking. It would ensure any institutions that are party to this reprehensible practice are subject to the strict penalties they deserve.”
Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who’s worked on his chamber’s companion legislation, thinks these online companies have been skating by scot-free under some misguided notion of “free speech.” They don’t remove the ads, he told CNN, “because they didn’t want to lose the revenue. You can imagine, this is a very lucrative business.” Victims also had no way of fighting back or suing the companies for their role. That all changes under the language that passed the Senate (97-2) today!
Krishna Patel, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in anti-trafficking cases, thinks America is reaping the consequences of a lack of regulation “that doesn’t exist in any other field.” “… [Y]ou’re seeing it with children being raped day in and day out. We wouldn’t tolerate the recruitment of terrorists on website,” she says. So why would we tolerate the recruitment of sexual predators? Thank goodness the House and Senate don’t. We applaud them for doing their part to modernize the rules and end the exploitation!
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.