Last week, the U.S. House and Senate passed a major bill, known as SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) which targets online human trafficking. Now awaiting the President’s signature, the bills “amends the federal criminal code to add a new section that imposes penalties—a fine, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both—on a person who, using a facility or means of interstate commerce, owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer service (or attempt or conspires to do so) to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.” The law empowers Attorney Generals to prosecute websites promoting sex trafficking.
In combination with an earlier measure, known as FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) which passed the Senate in late February, the FOSTA-SESTA package is disrupting the online trafficking industry for the better.
As a result of the impending law, several online trafficking websites have already shut down. Craigslist removed its “Personals” section used for trafficking. The Erotic Review removed its prostitution ads. Reddit removed its “Hookers” forum webpage and instituted policies banning the sale of sexual acts and drugs. Cityvibe has shut down. Microsoft plans to issue new Terms of Service, taking effect May 1, urging users not use their platforms (including Skype and Xbox) to share pornography or criminal acts.
According to the International Labor Organization, the sex trafficking industry claims 4.5 million victims worldwide. In the U.S., the $32 billion per year industry continues to increase in all 50 states. Currently, human trafficking has exceeded illegal sale of arms and according to estimates, could surpass illegal drug sales in the next few years.
While an established number for victims of sex trafficking in the U.S. is difficult to measure, some assert that the number of trafficked children may be as high as 200,000 per year. 70% of survivors claim that they were advertised online at some point during their trafficking experience. Pimps and traffickers advertise in online classified ads with pictures and descriptions of victims, which are often children ages 12-17, a heartbreaking statistic.
Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), who sponsored the bill, stated, “This FOSTA-SESTA package will finally give prosecutors the tools they need to protect their communities and give victims a pathway to justice.”
The Netflix movie, I am Jane Doe, focused on the website, Backpage.com which receives 99% of its income from sex ads and facilitates thousands of daily ads for male and female prostitutes, as well as children being trafficked by adults. The movie made clear that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) from 1996 gave exploitative websites like Backpage and others immunity from prosecution. The FOSTA-SESTA legislation amends the CDA and allows Attorney Generals to prosecute website administrators involved in sex trafficking.
Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-CA) also noted, “Last year, a massive international sex trafficking ring that was using the Internet to sell sexual services was uncovered in the heart of my district, Irvine, California. Thousands of those ads were tracked through Backpage.com, including ads selling minors for commercial sex. Websites such as Backpage have become storefronts for this modern-day slave trade…The FOSTA-SESTA legislation will significantly help prosecutors crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking, while providing much needed recourse for the thousands of men, women, and children who are victims of this evil industry.”
The response to FOSTA-SESTA by online sex traffickers illustrates that good laws have the power to stop exploitation, bring victims to justice and renew society. Those in leadership positions have the power to wield their influence for good. If we and they commit ourselves to making the world safer and better, we could truly make a lasting difference for the decency and dignity of all human beings. These two bills stand as huge step in the right direction. As we await the President’s signature, we hope for a new day of justice for victims of human trafficking.
Originally published on Patriot Post, April 5, 2018
Image credit: Fure/BigStock
When Brigitte Gabriel was only 10 years old, militant Islamic terrorists attacked her home in Southern Lebanon, destroying her home and seriously injuring her. She lived with her family in a 10 x 12 foot bomb shelter for the next 7 years as terrorists destroyed her beloved country. Ms. Gabriel now stands as a strong, clear voice against radical Islamic terrorism with her organization ACT for America, the largest national security grassroots organization in the U.S. composed of over 750,000 members and 1,000 chapters. She has written two New York Times Best Selling books and appears regularly on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC as a guest analyst. As one of the foremost terrorism experts in the world, Ms. Gabriel has addressed the United Nations, members of both the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon, the Joint Forces Staff College, the U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. Asymmetric Warfare group, the FBI and others.
However, not everyone agrees with her clear anti-terrorist message, mislabeling it as “hatred.” Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ACT for America a “Hate Group.” While true hatred means the emotion and actions of terror and murder, SPLC’s rubric for hatred includes some true hate groups, (like the KKK) alongside groups with whom the SPLC simply disagrees (like the Family Research Council).
By confusing the concept of “disagreement” with “hatred,” the SPLC seeks to vilify those who support traditional marriage or raise awareness about America’s national security with respect to radical Islam. While radical Islam seeks to murder Christians, Jews, and gays, a hatred extending to whole groups of people which should qualify as a true hate group, only those communicating the truth about this ideology have been vilified as the “haters.”
Among their criticisms of Gabriel’s work, opponents consider her views as anti-Muslim, Islamophobic and racist. Yet, Gabriel distinguishes between Sharia-adherent Muslims who model their lives after Mohammed’s example of rising to power through violence and murder and those who are not.
Ms. Gabriel also advocates for stopping Sharia law from being used in the U.S. court system because it allows for domestic violence (men can beat their wives), honor killings (murdering those who dishonor the family or convert to another religion) and supports female genital mutilation (the cutting of the clitoris of young girls). The reality of Sharia law and its implicit potential for human rights abuses can be difficult, even uncomfortable to fathom, but this unfortunate reality cannot be minimized or ignored.
Brigitte Gabriel’s experiences in combination with reason and evidence, have uniquely qualified her to speak with clarity on the issue of radical Islamic terrorism. In recent years, there has been a popular stream of thought emphasizing experience as the only qualifier for speakers. For example, only women can speak about women’s issues because they “know” how it feels. Only certain ethnicities are qualified to speak about race or only those affected by gun violence can speak about gun laws. By this standard, Brigitte Gabriel who was seriously injured by terrorists and lived in a bomb shelter for 7 years should be one of the most qualified to understand the real issues at stake with regard to radical Islamic terrorism. Yet, her critics have hypocritically disqualified her experience because they disagree with its implications.
Many, if not most of those critical of Brigette Gabriel’s work, have never lived, or better yet “survived” multiple years of systemic terrorism. Those who live in a relatively quiet and peaceful country cannot fathom the difficulties, hardship, pain, or raw horror of living in a war-torn country.
Ms. Gabriel’s treatment by critics is reminiscent of the character named Moshe the Beadle in Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, Night. In his book, Wiesel recounts how this poor man disappeared, experienced the horror of the Nazis, escaped and returned to their town to warn others. But rather than heed the warning, the people called him a radical, and ostracized him as a lunatic.
Because the truth, the real truth, can be so overwhelming that people would rather vilify the messenger than accept the message. They prefer to take the battery out of the smoke alarm than put out the fire.
Brigitte Gabriel’s message, which speaks to the reality of Islamic terrorism, must not be wished away, or ignored. She stands as a messenger with a difficult message and should be commended for her courage to speak. We, in turn, should have the wisdom to heed her warning.
Image Credit: ACT for America website
Originally published on Patriot Post, March 29, 2018