Senate sex trafficking bill wins 60 co-sponsors

Senate sex trafficking bill wins 60 co-sponsors
© Greg Nash

A Senate sex trafficking bill that has worried the tech industry now has the support of 60 co-sponsors, ensuring that the legislation will be able to bypass a filibuster.

Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump MORE (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the original sponsors of the bill, announced on Wednesday that the legislation had won over three more Republican senators: Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (S.D.), Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request Congressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending MORE (Ala.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste EPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste Conservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries MORE (Kan.).

“Today is another important milestone in our fight to hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve,” Portman and Blumenthal said in a joint statement. “There continues to be strong bipartisan support and momentum for this bill, and behind our efforts to help ensure that sex traffickers are brought to justice.“

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The two urged the Senate to vote on the bill as soon as possible.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) would make it easier for prosecutors and victims to take legal action against websites that facilitate sex trafficking. But critics, including much of the tech industry, argue that it would also hurt legitimate online platforms by chipping away at the legal protections websites have when it comes to content posted by third parties.

SESTA’s tech critics have largely backed a competing House bill, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), that they believe would leave their legal protections intact. Meanwhile, Portman, Blumenthal and some victims groups say it doesn’t go far enough in cracking down on bad actors online.

SESTA was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in November and is currently awaiting a floor vote. Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Trade chief defends Trump tariffs before skeptical Congress | Kudlow denies plan to demote Fed chief | Waters asks Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project On The Money: Trade chief defends Trump tariffs before skeptical Congress | Kudlow denies plan to demote Fed chief | Waters asks Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony MORE (D-Ore.) had announced a public hold on the bill at the time, though it now likely has enough support to clear any procedural hurdles.