In a nearly unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate approved the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, sending it to President Donald Trump, who is likely to sign it into law despite concerns from major technology companies.
Prompted by the Backpage.com scandal and subsequent investigation, the legislation is meant to strengthen law enforcement authority to go after sex traffickers, who often use the Internet to barter for children and young adults. If it is signed into law, websites involved in trafficking could be held liable for both criminal and civil penalties for knowingly allowing that type of activity to take place.
Civil liberties groups have sided with the tech giants, warning the law will result in greater online censorship. They say it begins chipping away at the protections many websites relied upon to allow users to fully express themselves, which could lead many to begin enacting restrictions—even on otherwise law-abiding activity.
Despite those concerns, the Senate voted 97-2 on Wednesday to approve the bill. The House passed it last month by a 388-25 margin.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the entire Trump administration is “firmly committed to holding those who participate in these horrific crimes accountable.” She said the president looks forward to working with stakeholders in an effort to “put an end to this scourge.”
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