On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA)/Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), a bill supported by Sheriff Tom Dart, which seeks to add harsher penalties for websites and companies that promote and facilitate sex trafficking.
The bill, which is expected to be signed into law in short order, will allow sex trafficking victims to hold online companies accountable in court for violating their rights. Previously, efforts to sue these companies were thwarted by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which would be amended with this legislation.
Since his election as Sheriff of Cook County, Sheriff Dart has fought vehemently against online companies’ promotion of prostitution and sex trafficking, having sued Craigslist to seek the removal of its “Erotic Services” section in 2009 and taking further efforts against like companies. He has also been a champion for survivors and sought to end demand for sex buying through his National Johns Suppression Initiative.
“This legislation will give victims and survivors of sex trafficking the justice they deserve from companies that unabashedly destroy lives for financial gain – this is something for which we’ve long been fighting,” said Sheriff Dart. “We’re already seeing significant results from the Senate passage alone.”
As of today, the “Personals” section of Craigslist has been shut down and Reddit has removed prostitution-themed subreddits. Additionally, The Erotic Review, a discussion board for johns, has closed its U.S. pages, and CityVibe, a site promoting prostitution advertisements, has also shut down.
Marian Hatcher, Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office and a survivor of sex trafficking herself, traveled to Washington D.C. in previous months to testify and advocate for the passage of the bill.