Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Online Sex Trafficking Bill Boosted With 60 Senate Backers

Updated on
  • Three new cosponsors give bill filibuster protection
  • Democratic Senator Wyden had put a hold on the legislation

A proposal to combat online sex-trafficking has won the backing of 60 U.S. senators, potentially ensuring it would clear procedural hurdles to passage, according to Republican Rob Portman of Ohio and Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who have been leading supporters of the bill.

The measure, an earlier version of which had spurred concerns from tech companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., was at the center of the latest clash in Congress over what responsibility internet platforms should take for the content users post on their sites.

The measure gained three more Republican cosponsors — Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Pat Roberts of Kansas — Portman and Blumenthal said in a statement Wednesday. That means the bill has enough supporters to withstand a filibuster. 

In November, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon announced a hold on the bill, which can signal a plan to filibuster. Portman and Blumenthal are pushing for a full Senate vote as soon as possible.

"Today is another important milestone in our fight to hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve," the senators said in a joint statement. "There continues to be strong bipartisan support and momentum for this bill, and behind our efforts to help ensure that sex traffickers are brought to justice."

The current version of the Senate bill, which has the support of Facebook, eliminates federal liability protections for websites that knowingly facilitate online sex-trafficking. Tech advocates say the protections helped the internet flourish.

In December, Portman, Blumenthal and four other senators said legislation in the House that also attempts to tackle online sex-trafficking was "harmful."

A victims’ group, working in cooperation with Portman’s office, will push for the passage of the bill during an event at a Senate office building on Jan. 11, according to the Facebook page of the group, World Without Exploitation.

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