Hoeven Cosponsors Legislation to Help Prevent Online Sex Trafficking, Ensure Justice for Victims

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today cosponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and close loopholes that websites like Backpage.com are exploiting in order to knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. 

“It is unacceptable that human traffickers can continue to exploit legal loopholes,” Hoeven said. “If you profit from this terrible crime and the suffering of these victims, you should not be able to escape justice. This legislation makes important reforms to help law enforcement combat sex trafficking and empowers victims to hold these websites accountable.”

Hoeven’s cosponsorship of this bill comes in addition to his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee to support state and local law enforcement and service providers’ efforts to combat human trafficking. Among other things, the senator worked to secure a permanent Federal Bureau of Investigation presence in western North Dakota as well as annual funding for law enforcement training, equipment and personnel and victim services through the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act is the result of a two-year inquiry conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which found that Backpage.com knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and young girls and then covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. The legislation has been endorsed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and other anti-trafficking advocates and law enforcement organizations.

Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly facilitated the crimes against them;
  • Eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws; and
  • Enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

A full summary of the bill can be found here, with text here and a section by section summary here. Additional background on the bill can be found here