McCaskill’s Anti-Sex Trafficking Law Showing Results

Senator’s bipartisan legislation draws praise from nation’s leading anti-trafficking group, after numerous websites that facilitated online sex trafficking have been shut down

WASHINGTON – The landmark, bipartisan anti-sex trafficking bill championed by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill that was recently signed into law is already making a significant difference in combatting online sex trafficking of women and children, resulting in the shutdown of several websites that knowingly facilitated sex trafficking, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the leading anti-trafficking group in the country.

“Since the enactment of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the government’s seizure of Backpage, there has been a major disruption in the online marketplace,” the NCMEC said. “The robust marketplace for online sex trafficking, including the sale of children for rape and sexual abuse, that took a decade to build, fragmented over the course of just a few days. It is no longer perceived to be safe to operate a website that knowingly facilitates the sale of children for sex. Many sites or portions of sites where NCMEC knew children previously have been sold for sex have voluntarily shut down. This means it is much harder to purchase a child for sex online.” 

“This is what happens when we work together to fight for a common goal: combatting online sex trafficking and preventing the next Backpage from ever taking hold,” said McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “Backpage has been shut down, and many more sites that sought to facilitate online sex trafficking are seeing a similar fate, and the message is clear as day—no more.”

McCaskill’s bipartisan legislation clarified Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to ensure that websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable so that victims can get justice. Backpage had escaped accountability for years by twisting the CDA as it was previously written into blanket immunity, which McCaskill’s narrowly-crafted legislation prevented from ever happening again.

The legislation was the result of a nearly two-year Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations inquiry, led by McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor, and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, which culminated in a report entitled “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking,” and found that Backpage knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and young girls and covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. McCaskill offered to share the more than a million pages of materials from the investigation with local prosecutors and law enforcement.

McCaskill and Senator Portman’s investigation led to the Senate’s 96-0 passage of a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the company—the first such action in 20 years—after the company refused to turn over documents responsive to the Senators’ requests. That historic lawsuit also led to the Supreme Court’s denial of Backpage’s request to stay the U.S. District Court’s order to comply with the Senate’s subpoena.

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/backpage to see more about McCaskill’s bipartisan investigation.

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