New Law Punishes Websites for Human Trafficking Crimes

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law
handcuffs and gavel

Punishment for Human Trafficking Crimes

The problem with modern human trafficking in the United States and around the globe has reached an epidemic level and in response, lawmakers continue to update and enact new laws to combat the issue.

Recently, President Trump signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) into law. The law targets online sex traffickers and makes it possible for prosecutors and victims to file a lawsuit against websites that facilitate criminal activity.

Prior to the law, websites fell under the protection of the Communications Decency Act which protected website owners from any liability involving content posted by users. Critics argued the law is a violation of free speech, but advocates hope it limits the damage that can be done by online traffickers.

FOSTA shut down several sex-oriented sections of different websites and in some cases, shut down entire sites like, which had been accused of facilitating prostitution. Craigslist, one of the internet’s most popular online forums, shut down its missed connections, dating, and personals sections.

To read more about FOSTA, check out this article from The Washington Post.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you own a website that is used for soliciting sex you could be held personally responsible for the actions of users, even if the site was not originally intended for this use. Furthermore, as a customer of a site that is breaking the law, you are at risk.

As a site owner, it’s your responsibility to determine how people are using your site. If you suspect there’s a problem you should speak to an attorney and look for ways to bring your site to within the letter of the law. No matter what type of site you run, if it can be linked to human trafficking you could face criminal charges.

Law enforcement will be evaluating sites more carefully than ever that are linked to the sex industry, so it’s important that, as a site owner, you do all you can to ensure your site falls within proper legal parameters.

What If You Don’t Own a webSite?

Your risk is slightly less if you aren’t a site owner, but any affiliation with a website linked to human trafficking can get you into trouble.

This means that employees and customers of general pornography sites could be put under a microscope. Chances are there won’t be a problem unless you’re breaking the law or you are aware of laws being broken, but it’s still important to be very careful.

If you suspect anything unusual or anything about the activity on a site makes you uncomfortable, it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially if you work for a company that runs the site in question.

Keep in mind, punishments will be harsh if you are connected in any way to human trafficking and until the problem is brought under control, you can expect the trend of aggressive crime fighting to continue.

If you are concerned about a potential link to human trafficking or you have questions about FOSTA, we can help. Contact David Lindsey to schedule a consultation.

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