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Bob G.
Republican VA 6

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  • Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act of 2015

    by Representative Bob Goodlatte

    Posted on 2015-01-27

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    GOODLATTE. Madam Speaker, I thank the chairman of the Crime Subcommittee for his hard work on this issue, and I appreciate the time.



    While it goes without saying that the growth of the Internet and smartphones have proven to be of great value in many aspects of our lives, these tools can also be used by criminals to facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation of children and other victims by providing an easy way for pimps or traffickers to market child sex trafficking victims to those who seek to do them harm. With just a click of a button, individuals can now use Web sites to advertise, schedule, and purchase sexual encounters with minors, just like they would use these services to hire a ride home.

    The SAVE Act, introduced by Mrs. Wagner from Missouri, makes a technical clarification to an existing Federal sex trafficking statute to make [[Page H598]] clear that the law extends to traffickers who knowingly sell sex with minors and victims of force, fraud, or coercion through advertising, as well as to people or entities that knowingly benefit from the sale or distribution of such advertising.

    While much of the growth of this terrible crime is on the Internet, this bill is technology neutral and applies to all advertising of children for sex, regardless of the medium. It is important to note that these advertisements, as with all ads and other speech promoting illegal activity, are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

    H.R. 285 was the subject of robust committee process both last Congress and this, and the bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee last week by voice vote. The legislation that is on the floor today strikes the right balance by protecting victims from commercial sexual exploitation, while also ensuring that constitutional rights are respected and innocent third parties are not wrongly prosecuted.

    This legislation simply clarifies and modernizes Federal criminal law to keep pace with the evolving trend of exploiting the Internet for criminal gains. The bill passed the House floor last Congress with wide bipartisan support but was not enacted into law.

    I commend my colleague from Missouri, Congresswoman Wagner, for sponsoring this important legislation again.

    I urge my colleagues to support this bill. I urge the United States Senate to take up this bill. Let's get it signed into law by the President of the United States. It would help save our children from the horrors that people understand but do not want to see. It is good legislation.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    We started out this afternoon by saying that we join together in stopping the scourge of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and I still stand by that premise. I support the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act. I do believe that adding advertising and having the provision in the law that includes mens rea is an important protection, that there must be an intent to sell and to advertise victims of exploitation.

    This, of course, is part of a number of proposals that we are considering today--and we hope we are successful--to combat sex trafficking; but, as we have discussed with respect to these other bills, much more must be done to prevent sex trafficking as well as to aggressively investigate and prosecute these crimes. H.R. 285 amends the current Federal sex trafficking statute so that advertising would now be one of the prohibitive means of facilitating this type of exploitive criminal conduct.

    We know, of course, that technology, however, sometimes is tricky. The bill correctly recognizes the fact that sex traffickers increasingly obtain customers for their illegal acts through the means of mass communication, either through various forms of print media or via the Internet. Maybe they throw in the cell phone or hard line as well, but they are out to get their victim. They are out to get that child. They are out to get that young woman or young man, boy or girl, and we must stop them in their tracks. In fact, sex traffickers use generalized marketplace Web pages to advertise, as well as sites and pages devoted to advertising the availability of commercial sex.

    While the Internet has enriched our lives greatly, these sex traffickers are only interested in using it in the most vile manner; and they use the Internet to perpetrate heinous criminal schemes, such as the selling of minors for sex. Without question, sex traffickers who advertise their scheme should be penalized for their criminal acts.

    While I realize that some have raised questions about how the advertising prohibitions under this bill would apply to online companies, I am concerned that we have a free use of that, if I might throw in a word, ``net neutrality.'' Because of this, we adopted an amendment during the Judiciary Committee's markup last Congress and now again, in a bipartisan effort, to address such concerns. That amendment is included in the text of H.R. 285.

    We know, for example, however, that with the way the Internet is, some innocent person might wind up finding things on their site that they may not have had anything to do with. We hope the standard of mens rea will help those individuals have a defense.

    So as it relates to this legislation, I raise concerns, as my colleagues have done, about the utilization, conduct, of mandatory minimums, primarily because of the vastness of the Internet, and our friends made the point that this advertising could wind up or some act could wind up on there without their knowledge.

    We know the one-size-fits-all approach, which is part of the mandatory minimum approach, to criminal actions in the form of mandatory minimums has greatly contributed to our Nation's crisis of overincarceration, and our Judiciary Committee, rightly so, has looked at this over the years.

    In the markup of this bill, the Judiciary Committee did not adopt an amendment that would have removed application of the statute's mandatory minimum penalties and instead allow a judge to apply an appropriate sentence under the circumstances of the case up to the statute's existing penalty, which I support enthusiastically, life in prison.

    Given the complicated nature of Internet communications networks with respect to how advertisements are delivered, the role of the judge might help to carve through, to ferret out, the facts and determine the level of guilt. So authorizing life imprisonment is a good thing. It would allow sufficient latitude for the imposition of extremely lengthy sentences where appropriate.

    I am hoping as we move forward with this legislation, which has a very important premise and point, that we will have the opportunity to discuss with our colleagues in the Senate to see how we can best make sure that this bill works to, in essence, target the bad guys and make sure that it does it fairly and directly, because sex trafficking, as I have always said on this floor, should be weeded out. Sex trafficking should not be.

    I ask my colleagues again to consider the mandatory minimum. I ask my colleagues to support this legislation.

    Madam Speaker, H.R. 285, the ``Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act,'' is among a number of important proposals we are considering today to combat sex trafficking.

    As we have discussed with respect to these other bills, much more must be done to prevent sex trafficking as well as to aggressively investigate and prosecute these crimes.

    H.R. 285 amends the current federal sex trafficking statute so that advertising would now be one of the prohibited means of facilitating this type of exploitative criminal conduct.

    The bill correctly recognizes the fact that sex traffickers increasingly obtain customers for their illegal acts through the means of mass communication, either through various forms of print media or via the Internet.

    In fact, sex traffickers use generalized marketplace Web pages to advertise, as well as sites and pages devoted to advertising the availability of commercial sex.

    While the Internet has enriched our lives greatly, these sex traffickers use the Internet to perpetrate heinous criminal schemes such as the selling of minors for sex.

    Without question, sex traffickers who advertise their schemes should be penalized for their criminal acts, while I recognize that some have raised questions about how the advertising prohibitions under this bill would apply to online companies.

    Because of this, we adopted an amendment during the Judiciary Committee's markup last Congress to help address such concerns. That amendment is included in the text of H.R. 285.

    Nevertheless, I cannot support this bill in its current form because it would subject yet another category of conduct to mandatory minimum sentences.

    Mandatory minimums lead to sentences that sometimes are not appropriate based on the facts of a particular case. A one-size-fits- all approach to criminal actions in the form of mandatory minimums has greatly contributed to our Nation's crisis of overincarceration.

    In the markup of this bill, the Judiciary Committee declined to adopt an amendment that would have removed application of the statute's mandatory minimum penalties and instead allow a judge to apply an appropriate sentence--under the circumstances of the case--up to the statute's existing maximum penalty of life in prison.

    Given the complicated nature of internet communications networks with respect to how advertisements are delivered, the role of the judge in evaluating each case is particularly important.

    [[Page H599]] And, authorizing life imprisonment would allow sufficient latitude for the imposition of extremely lengthy sentences--when appropriate.

    Because of this defect involving mandatory minimum sentences, I must oppose the bill that we consider today.

    By voting ``no,'' the House will allow the Judiciary Committee time to fix this serious flaw.

    With this important consideration in mind, I must ask my colleagues to oppose the bill today so that we may consider a better bill dealing with this aspect of sex trafficking in the near future.

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