DA, advocates push for change to sex trafficking laws

Manhattan — Survivors of sex trafficking and advocates flanked the Manhattan District attorney Wednesday begging the U.S. Senate to change sex trafficking law.

They said an outdated internet freedom regulation is stopping them from seeking justice.

“At 12-years-old I was trafficked here in New York City,” Melanie Thompson said.  “Although it was agonizing enough to be sold and beaten and raped repeatedly— it was online sites… that made it even worse.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance explained the issue.

“We can prosecute successfully the traffickers but cannot touch the websites that profit from the ads placed by these traffickers.”

There is currently legislation known as FOSTA-SESTA pending.  Considered controversial by some, it would allow sites like backpage.com to be held liable in criminal and civil court when it intentionally promotes or facilitates prostitution.

The legislation has already passed the House of Representatives and is currently ready for consideration in the United State Senate.  However, more established internet players like Google have pushed back fearing tighter regulation might lead to more frivolous lawsuits.

Sex workers also believe the new rules would unfairly restrict online forums they said they need.

The documentary “I am Jane Doe” followed sex trafficking victims as they unsuccessfully attempted to sue internet companies they said facilitated the horrors they faced.  The film’s producer, Mary Mazzio, pushed back against the notion new legislation would limit free speech on the internet.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation early next week.​