The US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday aimed at countering sex trafficking that allows victims of such exploitation to seek justice against website owners who knowingly promote or facilitate it.
Senators voted 97-2 to pass the measure, which cleared the House of Representatives last month and now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.
Supporters hailed the passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as a major victory, but the measure is not without its critics: some say it would undermine a basic underpinning of the internet, which enables websites to host information from third parties without liability.
Senator Rob Portman, a Republican sponsor of the bill, called the vote “a victory for trafficking survivors and a victory for our efforts to help stop the selling of women and children online.”
“For far too long, bad actors like Backpage hid behind an outdated law that allowed them to knowingly facilitate sex trafficking of children online,” added Senate Democrat Claire McCaskill.
“But that ends today.”
Backpage and other websites have been accused of facilitating sexual exploitation including prostitution and human trafficking through their adult services listings.
Trump applauded the bill’s passage, with the White House saying it would help “end modern slavery in all of its forms.”
“The president and his entire administration are firmly committed to holding those who participate in these horrific crimes accountable,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
The Department of Justice, while supporting the intent of SESTA, had expressed concerns about the bill, warning lawmakers that part of it might violate the US Constitution.
The Center for Democracy & Technology has said the bill would create a “confusing mashup” of federal and state criminal and civil liability for intermediary websites and could result in censorship of legal content.
The new legislation would amend an existing law from 1996, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, nullifying the immunity that the law provided to online companies against civil liability.
Portman and others argued that the intent of Section 230 was never to protect companies that were facilitating trafficking.
But critics warn that the bill jeopardizes several different sites, including dating apps, social media platforms and other services that host user-generated content, and could promote censorship.
The Internet Association trade group said that while it supports the goals of SESTA in cracking down on human trafficking and other abuse, it hoped to avoid legislative language that would weaken the 230 protections.
“Intermediary liability protections enable virtually all user-generated content online, allowing enormous parts of the internet ecosystem to function,” the group’s chief executive Michael Beckerman said in a statement.
Ex-Bush aide says Trump falls back on racism because he’s losing his mind: ‘Take him to Walter Reed for a full medical’
MSNBC contributor Elise Jordan said President Donald Trump was stuck peddling racism because he's losing his mental faculties.
The former speechwriter and National Security Council staffer in George W. Bush's administration said Trump's attack on four Democratic congresswomen betrayed his inherent racism, and showed that he's mentally diminished.
"I think you're being a little bit too charitable regarding Donald Trump having an actual strategy in the first place," Jordan told "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough. "I think that this is who he is -- he's racist."
"You have seen it, you know, his entire career," she continued, "whether it's calling for five young black men who are innocent to be executed. you see it in his comments consistently throughout the course of his campaign wanting to ban an entire religion from entering the country, and just this week the horrible remarks that, you know, an elected official -- elected by her fellow countrymen and women should be grateful to be in the country and should leave otherwise."
Anger soars over vicious mob attack on Hong Kong protesters
Anger soared in Hong Kong on Monday over a vicious assault on pro-democracy protesters by suspected triad gangsters that left dozens wounded, a dramatic escalation of the political turmoil plaguing the Chinese city.
The financial hub's roiling unrest took a dark turn late Sunday when gangs of men -- most wearing white T-shirts and carrying bats, sticks and metal poles -- set upon anti-government demonstrators as they returned from another huge march earlier that day.AFP / John SAEKI Hong Kong conflict
Footage broadcast live on Facebook showed people screaming as the men beat multiple protesters and journalists in Yuen Long station and inside subway trains, leaving pools of blood on the floor.
‘That’s rich coming from the man who only loves one thing, himself’: Internet destroys Donald Trump after he attacks 4 Dems again
President Donald Trump woke up Sunday morning at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and decided it was a good day to continue his attacks on the four progressive Democratic lawmakers he began targeting one week ago.
Now in day eight of his racist, nativist war on the Congresswomen who are also women of color, Trump called them "weak & insecure," demanded an apology, and decided (contrary to all evidence) they are not "capable of loving our Country."
America has had it with Trump's hate-mongering, racism, and white supremacism, and many across the country are speaking out in very clear terms about this president and his Sunday morning attack.