Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) Enforces Liability of Online Human Trafficking

Elena Baxter



The internet is the invisible red thread that connects us spanning the four corners of the earth. And we use it for everything: Shopping, news, entertainment, conversation, research and connection. But, there is a dark place on the internet that is occupied by an ugly predator, just waiting to be accessed by individuals who are wrapped up in its web. This same predator just so happens to aid the funding of the 3rd largest industry in the world: The Sex Industry. Because the very nature of the world wide web is to offer seamless transaction at our fingertips, the pattern of supply and demand within the sex industry has increased substantially and therefore, has resulted in an even higher demand for human trafficking. Human trafficking is not a new problem nor did it originate online, but it has grown significantly in recent years, and largely due to the facilitation lead by the internet.


The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has reported an 846 percent increase of suspected child sex trafficking from 2010 to 2015. A survey conducted in 2014 by Thorn, an organization that studies the link between technology and the sex trafficking industry reported that 70 percent of survivors of child trafficking were sold online. Additionally, Thorn reported that there are 100,00 new escort ads posted online every day as the, “the internet has made it easier for children to be bought and sold online — using some of the same technology and websites that people use to sell their bike, find a roommate or look for a local garage sale.” Online classified ad websites have perhaps made the largest contribution to the facilitation of online human trafficking beyond any other platform. According to Wagner, “Revenue from U.S. online prostitution advertising totaled $45 million in 2013, surpassing a benchmark set when Craigslist abandoned its adult services section in September 2010.” As well as, “most of the $45 million generated - 82.3% - has been generated by, a general classifieds site that has succeeded Craigslist as the nation’s leading publisher of online prostitution advertising”.



With such staggering numbers in place, we should feel the need to question whom the buyers are exactly. To law enforcement, they are known as “Johns,” “Clients” to sellers, and “Customers” to victims. But to any other decent human, the buyers are known as the multitude of men who selfishly purchase sex from exposed children and women. From observing the facts, it appears that the act of human trafficking has spiraled out-of-control as a reflection of a more deep-rooted issue: The Sex Industry. According to The Hill Contributor, Alex Trouteaud, “In a recent survey of more than 8,000 U.S. adult men, 6 percent said they paid for sex within the last year. High frequency buyers, who purchase sex dozens of times each year, are responsible for three of every four transactions in the illegal sex trade.” If we tie all of the pieces together: the amount of money that is made each year, the high purchasing behaviors of customers, the 3rd party sites that provide the option to purchase sex (including underage children), then we can conclude that it is the high demand for sex by “Johns” that has fueled the increase of sex trafficking. If the result of sex purchasing patterns is to have to purchase more which creates a need for a larger supply of prostituted persons, then perhaps we should question how healthy buying sex is to begin with, as it is extremely harmful.



This leaves us in a devastating position as this corner of the internet is clearly taking down humanity while growing at warped speed. And sadly, it is not as unknown as it may appear to be. Many are aware of its danger, including the leading figures in our society that have the power to do something about, but have been slow to act. Currently, it seems as though the internet has more rights than the estimated 300,000-400,000 American children trafficked throughout the U.S. each year (Department of Health & Human Services). In order to get some control over this issue, we need the government to step in.


While our government seems to be severely broken, there is fortunately a united front forming to fight against human trafficking. On Sunday, August 13th, 2017, Ohio Senator, Ron Portman announced the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) bill to initiate amends to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which provides immunity for third-party websites, like, from criminal activity on their site. Senator Portman stated the following: “I believe the Communications Decency Act is a well-intentioned law that has an important purpose. But the law should not protect those who knowingly facilitate illegal sex trafficking. That’s why this week I introduced the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — with more than two dozen of my colleagues in the Senate — to ensure websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held liable and that victims can get justice (Portman, 2017).”


The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act will play a major role in modernizing a rather outdated system by uplifting victims and their rights while also holding certain websites accountable for playing a role in the sale of humans. Below outlines 3 important reforms:

  1. The bill allow victims of online sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly facilitate crimes against them.

  2. The bill will help law enforcement by allowing the prosecution of websites that knowingly assist, support or facilitate a violation of already existing federal sex trafficking laws. 

  3. The bill will enable state law enforcement, not just the Department of Justice, to take legal action against businesses that violate sex trafficking laws.

The enacting of SESTA echoes the passion of Wilberforce who stormed and challenged the courts to abolish the Atlantic Slave Trade. And finally, the government will be a shield for the vulnerable women and children, and in return, these victims will have power to stand firmly against the enables of this injustice. 


Please use your voice and contact your senator ASAP to support an amended #CDA230:



With Care,

Elena + The WTA Team

(Photo courtesy of Welkermedia)

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