Much has changed since we last discussed the anti-trafficking movement’s legislative efforts to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230). In December 2017, the Allow States to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) landed in the House Judiciary Committee and passed unanimously by voice vote. Unbeknownst to the movement and without our collective input, legislators met behind closed doors with Tech community representatives, and dragged the bill in an entirely different direction. They replaced the critical language that would clarify CDA 230, and removed the ability for victims and survivors of online sex trafficking to access justice at the federal and state level and seek civil remedies from companies, like Backpage.com, that have profited off their exploitation. When we were informed of the changes, CATW pulled our endorsement of FOSTA, as did the vast majority of our partners, and highlighted our support for the Senate’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA).
Last month, Rep. Mimi Walters proposed an amendment that returned these important points to FOSTA and brought the House-side bill in line with SESTA. On February 27, the House debated and passed FOSTA, 388-25, with the Walters amendment attached. The newly dubbed FOSTA-SESTA bill is now in the Senate and is expected to be sent to the floor for a vote the week of March 12.