Online Platforms and Federal Prosecutions

Table of Contents What GAO LocatedWhy GAO Did This Research What GAO Located Two functions…

What GAO Located

Two functions in April 2018 disrupted the landscape of the on line professional sex marketplace. Very first, federal authorities seized the greatest on the net system for shopping for and advertising business sexual intercourse, backpage.com. 2nd, the Let States and Victims to Struggle On line Sexual intercourse Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) was enacted. These functions led many who controlled platforms in this industry to relocate their platforms overseas. Additionally, with backpage.com no for a longer period in the current market, buyers and sellers moved to other on-line platforms, and the current market turned fragmented.

From 2014 through 2020, the Section of Justice (DOJ) brought at least 11 prison instances towards people who regulate platforms in this current market, including 3 circumstances towards people who regulate backpage.com, as shown beneath.

Federal Prison Scenarios Introduced in opposition to People Who Handle Platforms in the On the net Business Sex Sector Beneath Various Legislation Which include FOSTA (from 2014 by means of 2020)

Notice: Funds focused by DOJ signifies funds in accounts that have been seized, are topic to possible forfeiture, or have been purchased to be forfeited. GAO uses the time period “at least” since there is an not known amount of money of funds in lots of accounts. Funds in cryptocurrency are expressed in the equivalent of U.S. Pounds.

The latest landscape of the on line business sexual intercourse market heightens previously-existing issues law enforcement deal with in gathering strategies and proof. Precisely, gathering tips and proof to investigate and prosecute those who manage or use online platforms has grow to be additional hard thanks to the relocation of platforms abroad, platforms’ use of complex payment units, and the enhanced use of social media platforms.

Prison restitution has not been sought and civil damages have not been awarded underneath segment 3 of FOSTA. In June 2020, DOJ introduced a person situation underneath the prison provision founded by area 3 of FOSTA for aggravated violations involving the advertising of prostitution of 5 or a lot more folks or performing in reckless disregard of intercourse trafficking. As of March 2021, restitution experienced not been sought or awarded. According to DOJ officials, prosecutors have not brought far more cases with rates underneath area 3 of FOSTA mainly because the law is reasonably new and prosecutors have experienced accomplishment making use of other legal statutes. At last, in November 2020 a person unique sought civil damages below a number of constitutional and statutory provisions, like segment 3 of FOSTA. Having said that, in March 2021, the courtroom dismissed the circumstance with out awarding damages soon after it experienced granted defendants’ motions to dismiss.

Why GAO Did This Research

On the web advertising and marketing and conversation platforms can allow sexual intercourse trafficking—the professional sexual exploitation of grown ups by means of power, fraud or coercion, or children under the age of 18 (with or without having power, fraud, or coercion)—by producing it easier for traffickers to exploit victims and link with buyers.

Portion 3 of FOSTA set up legal penalties for those who promote or aid prostitution and sexual intercourse trafficking via their control of on the web platforms. It also lets for individuals wounded by an aggravated violation involving the marketing of prostitution of 5 or additional individuals or reckless disregard of sex trafficking to recover damages in a federal civil motion. It also would make federal legal restitution necessary for aggravated offenses contributing to intercourse trafficking.

FOSTA incorporates a provision for GAO to deliver in depth information and facts on restitution and civil damages. This report examines: (1) DOJ enforcement initiatives against on-line platforms that encourage prostitution and sexual intercourse trafficking, from 2014 by way of 2020 and (2) the extent to which criminal restitution and civil damages have been sought and awarded for aggravated violations beneath section 3 of FOSTA.

GAO reviewed federal prison cases brought against people who managed platforms in the online business sexual intercourse market place from 2014 by means of 2020 visited a selection of on line platforms in this marketplace and done a lawful search to identify felony and civil scenarios brought pursuant to section 3 of FOSTA. GAO also interviewed DOJ officers and representatives from 3rd events.

For far more facts, speak to Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or [email protected]