Omaha Coalition on Human Trafficking
Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA)
On February 27th, the House passed Congresswoman Ann Wagner’s H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Subsequently, the Senate passed the bill, and it’s on its way to the President’s desk.
The bill is already working to disrupt demand for sex trafficking and shake up the illegal commercial sex industry. FOSTA set out to establish a meaningful criminal deterrent, so that
· fewer businesses would ever enter the online sex trafficking industry,
· websites would voluntarily adopt policies to better ensure that people aren’t victimized on their platforms, and
· fewer victims would be sold in the U.S.
Illegal commercial sex advertising platforms and forums have been blowing up, indicating that Congress has taken a powerful first step. Over the past week, with the help of law enforcement partners, we have witnessed the following: Consumer confidence for advertisers and commercial sex buyers is significantly damaged.
Here are some shutdown highlights:
· Cityvibe - full shutdown
· The Erotic Review (Yelp of the sex trade where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims) – US ad boards shut down
· NightShift – shut down to review policies
· VerifyHim - advertising "newsreel" gone
· Craigslist - personals section shut down
· Reddit - prostitution-related subreddits marked private; new policies banning sale of sex acts and drugs
· Google - reports of publicly shared commercial sex related advertising deleted
· Wordpress.com - reports of commercial sex related advertising sites removed
· Paypal - reports of advertised accounts for commercial sex related payment disabled
· Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming H.R. 1865-related changes.
· Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1 covering all its platforms including Skype and Xbox to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.
We can conclude that passage represents the most significant macroeconomic event since the 2010 shutdown of the Craigslist escort section. Early indications suggest it will be the most significant ever.
Note: If you hear arguments or evidence that the trade is shifting to the dark web, please know this is a GOOD thing for sex trafficking victims because the vast majority of casual sex buyers have no idea how to access the dark web, and purchases decrease. Moreover, the FBI has increased its presence on the dark web, leading to a significant series of recent busts that demonstrate that in many cases the dark web can be better monitored by law enforcement than the regular web.