Congress Acts and Websites Take Action: How a New Bill is Already Fighting Online Sex Trade

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Website giants like Craigslist and Reddit are taking action to prevent sex traffickers from using their services in response to legislation passed by Congress aimed at curbing sex trafficking on the Internet.

The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act allows the courts to punish websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking.

Website giants aren’t wasting any time protecting themselves from potential prosecution.

Craigslist has removed its personal ads completely.

“Any tool or service can be misused, the company said in a statement. “We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline.“

The online blog Reddit followed suit. “We want to let you know that we have made a new addition to our content policy forbidding transactions for certain goods and services,” the company said.

It went on to list those forbidden goods and services including, ”Paid services involving physical sexual contact.”

City Vibe, another website, has shut down completely.

According to Shared Hope, the personals sections of websites like Craigslist have long been a cover for prostitution and sex-trade.

Most trafficking victims are forced into the business between the ages of 14-16 years old and they often meet their captors online or via social media.

World Without Exploitation, a group dedicated to ending human trafficking writes, “The multi-billion dollar global sex trade is being increasingly powered by the internet, where classified advertising websites make buying vulnerable human beings for sex as easy as ordering a pizza.”

Online prostitution and sex trafficking has been big business for years but prosecutors were unable to go after websites because of judges’ interpretation of the Communications Decency Act.

However, the bill passed in 1996 when the internet was still in its infancy. 

According to a 2007 study from Shared Hope, “In both the Netherlands and the United States, commercial sex services and the victims providing those services are advertised extensively over the Internet, with a simple search of English language websites advertising escort services yielding 2.2 million results on Google.”

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