Congress 1, human trafficking 0

Posted on April 24, 2018 11:59 am CDT

By Congressman Billy Long,

A big tip of my hat to two of my colleagues, Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-2) and Rep. Mimi Walters (CA-45), who worked tirelessly for more than a year on H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, of which I was a proud co-sponsor. On April 11, President Trump signed this landmark legislation into law, and it made an immediate positive impact on the scourge of human trafficking. According to Memex, a program that tracks online sex ads, sex ads have gone down between 80 and 90 percent since the passage of H.R. 1865.

I recently wrote in my column about our efforts to combat human trafficking, specifically websites that promote sex trafficking online. Two weeks later, Congress took this powerful first step and passed H.R. 1865, which allows federal, state and local prosecutors to prosecute websites that allow its users to post content advertising sex trafficking.

According to the International Labor Organization, there may be as many as 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking in the world. Of those 4.8 million, more than 99 percent are female and more than 21 percent are children. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Investigations teams opened 833 human trafficking cases. The results were encouraging, resulting in 1,602 arrests and 578 convictions.

Sex trafficking affects every part of the world. It’s something that moved seamlessly from the streets to living rooms via the internet. Recently, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing addressing sex trafficking online. After questioning the witnesses, the one request that remained consistent among them was the need to have the tools to break the commercial market so many young girls don't run back to this life.

It’s rare that Congress passes a bill that is signed into law and then has an immediate positive impact, but that’s exactly what happened here. As a side benefit, other individual websites are also being proactive and looking closely at the content their platforms support. Both Craigslist and Reddit have taken steps to either pull content or remove sections of their sites to prevent this type of advertisement.

As this law continues to allow prosecutors at all levels to crack down on these horrific practices, I will do my best to look for other ways for Congress  combat human trafficking. 

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