President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday giving state and federal prosecutors more power to target websites that host sex-related ads.
The bill, named "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act" or FOSTA, reduces the protections that previously allowed websites to avoid legal liability for users' postings. The legislation goes into effect immediately, and many websites, including Craigslist, already began shuttering sections with sex-related content last month, after the bill passed in the Senate.
Critics claim that the legislation is too broad and endangers the lives of sex workers by removing one of the only safe spaces they have to screen customers.
"Shutting down every service provider and website will not end sex trafficking," Jean Bruggeman, executive director of Freedom Network USA, a coalition of anti-trafficking advocates, told the Washington Post. "What it will do is push traffickers to overseas websites that are beyond the reach of law enforcement, making it harder to prosecute them and harder to find them through the victims."
"This was a tough one. It shouldn’t have been tough," Trump said, addressing the controversy over the bill. "I guess people have reasons [to oppose the legislation], but I personally don’t understand those reasons."
The signing comes just days after executives of Backpage.com were arrested for money laundering and facilitating the prostitution of teenage women, some of whom had been killed. Trump signed the bill while surrounded by victims of sex trafficking, including the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was murdered after being prostituted on Backpage.