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US House approves bill to curb online sex trafficking

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 388-25 Tuesday to approve a bill [HB 1865 text] meant to curb online sex trafficking.

HB 1865, introduced last April, would amend Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 [text], which limits online service providers' liability regarding presentation of online material created by other entities. The amendment seeks to clarify that Section 230 was never meant to extend protections from liability to websites that publish and disseminate materials that promote prostitution or sex trafficking.

The bill also includes an addition to the federal criminal code, prescribing up to 10 years in prison and a fine for anyone who engages in means of interstate commerce (includes operation of websites) to promote prostitution or sex trafficking. The bill would also criminalize reckless behavior that promotes prostitution or sex trafficking. Courts would be compelled to order both criminal and civil remedies to victims. Victims could also sue for damages. If a defendant engages in such activity in a jurisdiction where prostitution is legal, the defendant may raise an affirmative defense that prostitution is legal in said jurisdiction.

A similar bill is pending before the Senate.

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