With Backpage.com and Other Sites Shutting Down, Rep. Maloney, Trafficking Victims and Advocates Celebrate Impact of Bill to Combat Online Sex Trafficking

Apr 9, 2018
Press Release
Bipartisan legislation awaiting President Trump’s signature

NEW YORK—Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) joined with survivors of sex trafficking and anti-trafficking advocates to celebrate the impact of House and Senate passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which includes an amendment added in the House to incorporate provisions of the Senate bill, Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). Although the bill has not yet been formally signed into law, websites known to advertise sex with trafficking victims are already shutting down.

“Today, we celebrate another huge step in the fight against modern-day slavery,” said Congresswoman Maloney.” Congress overwhelmingly passed this transformational bill to combat online sex trafficking and clarify a 1996 law that inadvertently protected these online sellers of sex. Survivors and their families who tried to bring civil action against these sites were getting shut out of court, and prosecutors who were trying to crack down on these websites had their hands tied. But no more! The way Backpage.com—and websites like it—do business is simply wrong, and the law should leave no room for confusion about that. These websites are not merely platforms; they are active participants in the sale of people for commercial sex. Their time is up.”

Rep. Maloney was a lead co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO). The FOSTA-SESTA legislative package clarifies the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that inadvertently protected websites that actively facilitate advertising of sex with minors and trafficking victims from criminal prosecution and civil suits. The FOSTA-SESTA legislative package makes it clear that internet companies that facilitate sex trafficking are not shielded by federal law.

“Regardless of gender, religion, age, education or nationality, we all deserve humanity, dignity and freedom,” said Shandra Woworuntu, Survivor of Sex Trafficking. “None of us should be advertised in the media internet as merchandise to be bought and sold. The best solution is through legislation which will stop these  activities and to protect victims of exploitation and trafficking. Those victims deserve justice.  It is important to increase prosecution to the traffickers, their associates and the buyers”. 

“It’s about time Survivors voices are not only heard but are triumphant,” said Tiffany Vazquez from GEMS.

“Sanctuary for Families applauds the bipartisan Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which has now passed both the Senate and the House with the support of 97 Senators and 388 Representatives,” said Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Director of Sanctuary for Families. “The legislation recognizes that the internet has become the chief vehicle for the intentional promotion and facilitation of sex trafficking. Crucially FOSTA enables Federal, State, and local prosecutors to bring to justice websites that intentionally promote or facilitate sex trafficking and empowers victims of online sex trafficking to bring civil actions against these sites.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that child sex trafficking increased by more than 800% from 2010 to 2015 and almost ¾ of child sex trafficking reports are from Backpage.com ads. During this time, Backpage.com’s profits increased exponentially. It is high time that these criminal actors were held accountable both by the American justice system and the young people whose lives they’ve devastated.”

“We are thrilled that last Friday the DOJ took decisive action to shut down the Backpage website and hope this action will prevent countless more victims, including our most vulnerable children, from being trafficked for sex,” said G. Elaine Wood, Chair of the Board of Legal Momentum. We note this action comes on the heels of Congress’ historic passage of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation, strongly advocated for by Legal Momentum and spearheaded through Congress by Representative Malony, as well as a recent Florida Federal Court ruling which rejected Backpage’s claim that it was insulated from liability and determined that Boies Schiller & Flexner could proceed with its suit against Backpage. Years of hard work by Legal Momentum that often fell on deaf ears has finally begun to pay off.  We hope this sends a strong signal to other outlets looking to mimic Backpage’s heinous behavior and we look forward to continuing to work with David Boies, Karen Chesley, Karen Dyer and the other members of the Boies Schiller & Flexner legal team to eradicate sex trafficking altogether and obtaining just compensation for the survivors.”

“This DOJ enforcement action, long due, represents a new era of justice for victims of online sex trafficking,” said Civil Rights Attorney Carol Robles-Roman, a long- time member of Legal Momentum. “As a lawyer who has represented persons victimized by Backpage, I look forward to a thorough federal investigation of this alleged criminal activity, and that survivors finally have their much deserved day in court." 

"The passage of this bill is truly a watershed moment in ending a pervasive culture that normalizes the sale of vulnerable women and children,” said Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director, Equality Now. “This is just the first step to ending online sex trafficking - we urge tech companies to not just avoid liability but take proactive steps to end the sale of children for sex on the internet, completely. They have it in their power to do so - if they are not sure how, then I’d like to invite them to come and work with us".



As a co-chair and co-founder of the Human Trafficking Caucus, Congresswoman Maloney is a longtime advocate for survivors of sex-trafficking and is actively working to end this terrible crime. Every year, thousands of men, women, and children around the world are trafficked into the United States to be sold for commercial sex and labor. Human trafficking is the fastest growing and the third-largest criminal activity in the world.


Select websites already impacted by FOSTA-SESTA

  • Backpage.com—full shutdown
  • 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 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.