Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law

Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law
© Greg Nash

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill Interview: Jerry Brown on climate disasters, COVID-19 and Biden's 'Rooseveltian moment' Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday that he will introduce legislation calling for a study on the effects of a recent sex-trafficking law on free speech and the safety of sex workers.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Acts, collectively known as FOSTA-SESTA, make it illegal to knowingly assist or facilitate sex trafficking and excludes advertisements for sex work from the Communications Decency Act’s “safe harbor” rule.

The law passed with bipartisan support in 2018, with only Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Rand Paul says he can't judge 'guilt or innocence' in Breonna Taylor case Overnight Health Care: Health officials tell public to trust in science | Despair at CDC under Trump influence | A new vaccine phase 3 trial starts MORE (R-Ky.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Democratic senators ask inspector general to investigate IRS use of location tracking service MORE (D-Ore.) voting against it in the Senate, but both free speech organizations and sex workers have criticized the measure.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The law was supposed to prevent online sex trafficking, but instead criminalized online sex work and suppressed free speech,” Khanna tweeted, saying his proposal would commission a National Institutes of Health study on its effects.

The law’s provisions on online speech, he added, also deprived sex workers of a method they could use to screen out potentially dangerous clients.

“Prior to SESTA-FOSTA, sex workers used websites to screen clients. Now those sites are illegal, and sex workers can’t take safety measures like screening a potential client’s social media, prearranging a public meeting spot, or sharing their location with friends,” he tweeted.

“We need a better understanding of how the shutting down of these websites has endangered sex workers,” Khanna added.