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By Margaret Harding McGill, POLITICO'S MORNING TECH

February 22, 2018

MT readers know the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (HR 1865) is supposed to hit the House floor next week, and we're getting more details on how it'll play out. Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) announced she'll offer an amendment with language from the Senate version of the bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S 1693), which would allow law enforcement and victims to take websites to court for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. Walters touted the combination: "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."

- Things are still in flux, and lawmakers can offer other amendments, but momentum appears to be building toward House passage of the bill with key SESTA components attached.

- Mary Mazzio, the director of the sex trafficking documentary "I Am Jane Doe," said she and other survivor advocates are thrilled with the commitment of House leadership to "come to a speedy resolution." She said she hopes "there are no underhanded attempts to undermine civil remedies that have now been restored."

- Consumer Watchdog praised the Walters amendment. "It looks like rogue websites like Backpage may finally be held accountable for their abuses. ... What's disheartening is how tech industry giants like Google and Facebook resisted the clearly necessary reform of CDA Sec. 230 for so long," said the group's director, John Simpson. He was referring to a provision of the Communications Decency Act that shields websites from liability for content posted by users.

- Tech advocacy group Engine, though, is not pleased: "Attaching SESTA to FOSTA does not add anything that will make it easier for prosecutors to stop bad actors online. Rather, it merely increases the risk of unforeseen liability for startups that host user-generated content without the promise of any meaningful decrease in online sex trafficking," said the group's executive editor, Evan Engstrom. We'll be tracking - this legislative battle is not over yet.


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