Sex Crimes

Internet Freedom Suffers in Passage of Senate Human Trafficking Bill

Senators sneak through SAVE Act as amendment, creating criminal liability for classified-ad sites.

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compassionateeye/Flickr

With an agreement now reached on (not) funding abortions for trafficking victims, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to pass the "Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act" (JVTA). The bill had been much-debated on the Senate floor and in the media. But with little fanfare or discussion, Senators tacked on a late amendment to the legislation which radically alters the rules for Internet publishers. Known as the "Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation" (SAVE) Act, the change is vehemently opposed by a broad coalition of free speech, web publishing, and civil liberties advocates. 

If the SAVE amendment ultimately passes—the whole trafficking package now goes to the U.S. House—it would go against decades of precedent related to web publishers and user-generated content. In general, the owners of websites and online publications cannot be held criminally liable for the things that random people post. Under the new rules, however, these entities could be charged as sex traffickers if it turns out any trafficking victims are advertised on the site. Sponsors have specifically stated that their intent is to shut down, or at least seriously cripple, the classified-ad site Backpage.com. 

Last summer, more than 20 groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Society of News Editors—and law professors came out against the SAVE Act, which they said would "place unconstitutional burdens on the free speech and privacy rights of millions of Americans," lead to fewer free and low-cost web publications and services, disproportionately harm small businesses, and "discourage good-faith screening and content moderation efforts by content hosts." 

In the lead-up to yesterday's passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, Senators spent ample energy debating whether a crime-victims fund set up by the bill could be used to cover trafficking victims' abortions. But they devoted little attention to the advertising amendment, leaving even folks who've been following the trafficking bill in surprise that the SAVE Act was part of the deal. 

Only two Senators, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), voted against the SAVE amendment. Other amendments to the JVTA approved yesterday include a provision to train airport and border security officials to "deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking," and one "to increase the amount provided under certain formula grants to States that have in place laws that terminate the parental rights of men who father children through rape." 

But the heart of the JVTA, as I noted in March,

… is a change to federal criminal code that would make soliciting sex from a trafficking victim a crime tantamount to sex trafficking itself, even if a defendant doesn't know the individual was forced or coerced. But the legislation also authorizes and funds a wide variety of community, state, and federal initiatives designed to prosecute human trafficking, as well as efforts to fight other "illicit sexual conduct," "illicit e-commerce," and cybercrime. 

For more on the particulars of the JVTA, see here and here. For more on the SAVE Act, see Noah Berlatsky's rundown here. And if you think chilling web-censorship efforts are limited to the legislature, see Brian Doherty on the FBI's ongoing war on online vice. 

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44 responses to “Internet Freedom Suffers in Passage of Senate Human Trafficking Bill

  1. …a trafficking victim a crime tantamount to sex trafficking itself, even if a defendant doesn’t know the individual was forced or coerced…

    Can’t wait for the FBI stings where they take a formerly trafficked victim and charge the mark with trafficking to boost arrest.

    1. Clearly I need more sleep, this sentence is poorly constructed.

      1. It’s the law: feature, not bug.

    2. These days the government crooks can do whatever they want. You have no right to a trial, no right to keep and bear arms, no right to an appeal, no right against cruel and unusual punishment. Police can now legally pull people over, walk up to their car and shoot anyone they want in the back of the head. They will only get a promotion when they decide to do this. Our federal employees often don’t even pay their income and estate taxes. Yet the IRS will send in a swat team of law enforcement thugs, if non government actors, fail to pay or even make a minor mistake on their taxes. The Senators that authored this bill should resign from office in disgrace! And our law and order jerk off supreme court will uphold this new law and its dozens of provisions by a 9-0 vote in a few years. Even though it clearly violates the constitution. Our judges are corrupt arrogant bastards, who have no respect for the rule of law. Just like the rest of government. And our a**hole prosecutors already have way too much power. They have been using the Bill of Rights as toilet paper for decades!

    3. Our government jerks will just lie under oath like they always do. They will take an adult police women, advertise on backpage.com, then when suspect shows up, they will claim police woman was a trafficking victim in another lifetime. This will upgrade the charge from a misdemeanor to a death penalty case. And the judge will say defendants death sentence was all fine and dandy. This law also exempts federal, state, and local government employees from being prosecuted under it. So politicians, judges, persecutors, cops, tax collection employees, etc. will still solicit prostitution legally from adults and even children.

  2. We need a constitutional amendment against procedurally morphic laws. Something to kill both the “Last minute amendment” and the “Omnibus”.

    1. Don’t forget to impose penalties for “cleverly” named Acts.

      1. We could call it the “RETARD Act”

        Repeal
        Enacted and
        Transitional
        Acts with
        Ridiculous
        Designations
        Act

        Then we could exempt our act with a rider.

  3. train airport and border security officials to “deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking”

    With all due respect, what could *possibly* go wrong?

    “Better ten thousand whining children be detained than one underage prostitute be sneaked through!”

    1. This would be the same TSA that for all intents and purposes blocked prosecution of their own employees found to be systematically groping the genitals of people they found attractive, yes?

      Makes sense.

  4. Senators spent ample energy debating whether a crime-victims fund set up by the bill could be used to cover trafficking victims’ abortions.

    Thus ensuring more anchor babies they claim to also oppose.

    1. Thus ensuring more anchor babies they claim to also oppose.

      Wouldn’t an abortion assure there are no anchor babies?

      1. Usually it’s a fight to get to “no federal funds shall be used” position. I think that’s what SF was getting at.

        1. Yes. Catatafish is wise in the ways of early morning posting…

    2. Funny you should quote this statement, when it is completely erroneous in what it claims.
      The debate was whether funds collected from fines set up by this act would be considered “taxpayer” dollars and, thus prohibited, for more than forty years, from going to fund abortions, in general. Not for “trafficking victims'” abortions.
      The demoncraps wanted a loophole to allow FEDGOV to pay for abortions, something a large majority oppose.
      Making this false claim, in the first paragraph, makes one look askance at the rest of the article, raising questions about the accuracy of anything else stated.

  5. Only two Senators, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), voted against the SAVE amendment.

    But they still voted for the whole thing. Looks like no one has the balls to oppose the bill. Not even
    Rand Paul

    1. Wyden is pretty good from time to time, I know nothing about Cantwell.

    2. I don’t blame him for dying on this particular hill. Good for Wyden for at least partially opposing the bill, I think he’s easily the best Democrat out there. Of course the fact that he’s not even in discussions of possible Dem nominees should speak volumes about where that party is at.

      1. Ugh. I don’t blame him (Paul) for not dying on this hill.

  6. Evil + stupid = bipartisan support

    1. It’s all about the good intentions.

    2. So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

      1. I’d give you a thumbs up, but my Schwarts is tangled.

  7. Here is the thing about “Human Trafficking”, there is no better more sexy media story than no kidding white slavery. Yet, you never see any real stories in the media about such. If there really were thousands of women being smuggled into the US as sex slaves, you would think the cops would be making a few cases about it and those cases would be huge news. Yet, there are no such stories. Human trafficking is always something these people assure us exist but there seems to be any individual cases of it.

    The term has become just another word whose meaning our government has raped in its pursuit of power.

    1. Did you just say “Where all the white women at?”

      1. I have binders full of women…

    2. There must be a constituency for anti Human Trafficking legislation somewhere. Some group is pushing this.

      Does anybody know who they are? SoCons? Bleating Hearts?

      1. Both, I suspect. And, in general, whoever else is on board with this New Puritanism that seems to be spreading like wildfire these days.

      2. Religious groups + anti-sex feminists + prosecutors & cops

        1. I agree, religious nut jobs, feminist idiots, pigs and scum bag persecutors.

    3. Yet, there are no such stories.

      I was just thinking similarly wrt the legalization of other drugs. Not only are there no such stories, but a distinctly vaporous lack of them.

      For a couple decades drug warriors were filmed standing atop million-dollar mountains of drugs with piles of dead dealers at the bottom covered in a fine dust of crack cocaine.

      Now that there are serious questions about how these drug warriors have done business for the past couple decades, rather than frequent images of them using a staff with old glory hanging off the other end to pry open shipping containers full of little Chinese girls, we get non-stop coverage of them choking victims to death and shooting kids in the back.

      It’s like they aren’t even trying anymore.

  8. Under the new rules, however, these entities could be charged as sex traffickers if it turns out any trafficking victims are advertised on the site. Sponsors have specifically stated that their intent is to shut down, or at least seriously cripple, the classified-ad site Backpage.com.

    I think it would be good if the opposition counters the newspeak by emphasizing that “sex trafficking victims” include mostly voluntary actors. I’ve read that NY cabbies won’t give anyone they suspect is a prostitute a ride because they could be charged with sex trafficking or accessories to trafficking.

    Most companies are already leery about anything concerning sex or sexual speech. If it were part of company values such as a religious or feminist company, that would be understandable. But most media companies, publishers, services already swear it off entirely because of liability reasons. Bills like this just further cements government nudging of society and introduces a whole slew of methods to turn innocent people into criminals.

  9. I’m not defending Republicans on their worthless civil rights record, but how do they even have a chance of voting against this without being portrayed as continuing the war on women? Not that they are any great defenders of rights but they would be portrayed as wanting to start sex slave businesses if they didn’t support this.

  10. Does anybody have any actual evidence of “Human Trafficking”? I see a lot of claims that frankly smell to high heaven of bovine excreta (“Michigan ranks No. 2 for human trafficking sex trade behind only Nevada. In an effort to crack down on adults and juveniles abducted and used as sex slaves Gov. Rick Snyder is announcing a new team to fight crime. “*). Really?!?! Michigan?!?! And we are to applaud Snyder instead of wondering what the F*ck he is high on?!.

    “Human Trafficking” is just the Victorian/Edwardian panic over White Slavers, reheated with a side of Political Correctness sauce. Pretty nauseating dish, and totally devoid of anything resembling nutritional value.

    *there was a link to a Fox news story here, but they won’t let me quote it, it’s more than 50 characters long.

  11. But it’s for the children!!!!!! 11!!! Why do you hate children ENB?

    1. Because she supports rape culture.

  12. My best friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 /hour on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    Visit this website ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  13. Well, both political parties have been trying to destroy liberty for decades! This law has nothing to do with children. It is aimed at targeting consenting adults on backpage.com. Now the a**hole federal prosecutors can execute or imprison people for life who hook up on this kind of site. Even if both parties are adults. This act also eliminates the right to a trial, and appeal if a defendant is charged under the new dozens of federal crimes that this act has now created. It also allows law enforcement to seize all of a persons financial assets and property, even if they have no evidence against a suspect. And our a**hole U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of this law by a 9-0 vote a few years from now. Even though it clearly violates the constitution. Because our judges are all big government nut jobs! Why does our congress instead go after the millions of federal employees who have not paid any income tax in years. The IRS gives all federal employees a free pass on not paying their taxes!!! Yet if other people make an honest mistake, IRS sends in the swat team of law enforcement thugs and cowards! And our country continues to be flooded by millions of illegals, who refuse to speak English. Wake up stupid American people! It is time to take back our country from these lawless government thugs! We must vote against both Republicans and Dems. We need Libertarians and other freedom loving individuals.

  14. This started in 2014 to oppose The Save Act hr 4225, + and it took me from Nov 2014 until Feb 2015 until I got a appointment to sit down with senator Sheldon’s policy adviser and she did not disagree with these 3 facts. First 3 federal judges have already ruled that they can’t hold backpage accountable for 3rd party content plus the judge said he knew that there were legal adult entertainment, so they can’t just assume everyone illegal. 2st I told her the EFF would get a immediate injunction on the law like they did with prop 35. and then I told her websites would just start moving their servers outside the US (as many already have) and thus he Save Act wouldn’t save anyone, then she told me that Sheldon still wasn’t going to oppose the bill. Esplerp send our opposition letters to everyone on the judiciary committee, and ye the media was told that nobody opposed the bill until the abortion glitch.

  15. So the trafficking NGO’s already get 686 million a year and they do not provide any services to victims.

    Special Report: Money and Lies in Anti-Human Trafficking NGOs
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/…..cking-ngos

  16. Here you can read about the 2.5 million homeless American kids and how researchers found almost 300 of hem in NY who entered into the sex industry to survive, because our government won’t step up and provide vial services to our youth. Only 6% said that they had been exploited and these teens taught each other who to do sex work, so there is no big bad pimps and most sex workers are adults and under their own control.

    Youth
    http://www.urban.org/UploadedP…..w-York.pdf
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..54248.html

  17. ” Is one of the most-cited statistics about sex work wrong?”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/bus…..ng/379662/

  18. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  19. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

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