Public Law 115-164 – Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017

[115th Congress Public Law 164]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

PLAW 115publ164

[[Page 132 STAT. 1253]]

Public Law 115-164
115th Congress

An Act

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to clarify that section 230 of
such Act does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users
of interactive computer services of Federal and State criminal and civil
law relating to sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking, and
for other purposes. <<NOTE: Apr. 11, 2018 – [H.R. 1865]>>

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, <<NOTE: Allow States and
Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.>>
SECTION 1. <<NOTE: 18 USC 1 note.>> SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Allow States and Victims to Fight
Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017”.
SEC. 2. <<NOTE: 47 USC 230 note.>> SENSE OF CONGRESS.

It is the sense of Congress that–
(1) section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.
230; commonly known as the “Communications Decency Act of
1996”) was never intended to provide legal protection to
websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and
websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of
unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims;
(2) websites that promote and facilitate prostitution have
been reckless in allowing the sale of sex trafficking victims
and have done nothing to prevent the trafficking of children and
victims of force, fraud, and coercion; and
(3) clarification of such section is warranted to ensure
that such section does not provide such protection to such
websites.
SEC. 3. PROMOTION OF PROSTITUTION AND RECKLESS DISREGARD OF SEX
TRAFFICKING.

(a) Promotion of Prostitution.–Chapter 117 of title 18, United
States Code, is amended by inserting after section 2421 the following:
“Sec. 2421A. <<NOTE: 18 USC 2421A.>> Promotion or facilitation
of prostitution and reckless disregard of sex
trafficking

“(a) In General.–Whoever, using a facility or means of interstate
or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce,
owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer service (as such term
is defined in defined in section 230(f) the Communications Act of 1934
(47 U.S.C. 230(f))), or conspires or attempts to do so, with the intent
to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person shall be
fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.
“(b) Aggravated Violation.–Whoever, using a facility or means of
interstate or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate

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or foreign commerce, owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer
service (as such term is defined in defined in section 230(f) the
Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 230(f))), or conspires or attempts
to do so, with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of
another person and–
“(1) promotes or facilitates the prostitution of 5 or more
persons; or
“(2) acts in reckless disregard of the fact that such
conduct contributed to sex trafficking, in violation of 1591(a),

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 25 years,
or both.
“(c) Civil Recovery.–Any person injured by reason of a violation
of section 2421A(b) may recover damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees
in an action before any appropriate United States district court.
“(d) Mandatory Restitution.–Notwithstanding sections 3663 or 3663A
and in addition to any other civil or criminal penalties authorized by
law, the court shall order restitution for any violation of subsection
(b)(2). The scope and nature of such restitution shall be consistent
with section 2327(b).
“(e) Affirmative Defense.–It shall be an affirmative defense to a
charge of violating subsection (a), or subsection (b)(1) where the
defendant proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the promotion
or facilitation of prostitution is legal in the jurisdiction where the
promotion or facilitation was targeted.”.
(b) Table of Contents.–The table of contents for such chapter is
amended <<NOTE: 18 USC prec. 2421.>> by inserting after the item
relating to section 2421 the following:

“2421A. Promotion or facilitation of prostitution and reckless
disregard of sex trafficking.”.

SEC. 4. ENSURING ABILITY TO ENFORCE FEDERAL AND STATE CRIMINAL AND
CIVIL LAW RELATING TO SEX TRAFFICKING.

(a) In General.–Section 230(e) of the Communications Act of 1934
(47 U.S.C. 230(e)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(5) No effect on sex trafficking law.–Nothing in this
section (other than subsection (c)(2)(A)) shall be construed to
impair or limit–
“(A) any claim in a civil action brought under
section 1595 of title 18, United States Code, if the
conduct underlying the claim constitutes a violation of
section 1591 of that title;
“(B) any charge in a criminal prosecution brought
under State law if the conduct underlying the charge
would constitute a violation of section 1591 of title
18, United States Code; or
“(C) any charge in a criminal prosecution brought
under State law if the conduct underlying the charge
would constitute a violation of section 2421A of title
18, United States Code, and promotion or facilitation of
prostitution is illegal in the jurisdiction where the
defendant’s promotion or facilitation of prostitution
was targeted.”.

(b) <<NOTE: Applicability. 47 USC 230 note.>> Effective Date.–The
amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of the
enactment of this Act, and the amendment made by subsection (a) shall
apply regardless of

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whether the conduct alleged occurred, or is alleged to have occurred,
before, on, or after such date of enactment.
SEC. 5. ENSURING FEDERAL LIABILITY FOR PUBLISHING INFORMATION
DESIGNED TO FACILITATE SEX TRAFFICKING OR
OTHERWISE FACILITATING SEX TRAFFICKING.

Section 1591(e) of title 18, United States Code, is amended–
(1) by redesignating paragraphs (4) and (5) as paragraphs
(5) and (6), respectively; and
(2) by inserting after paragraph (3) the following:
“(4) <<NOTE: Definition.>> The term `participation in a
venture’ means knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating
a violation of subsection (a)(1).”.
SEC. 6. ACTIONS BY STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL.

(a) In General.–Section 1595 of title 18, United States Code, is
amended by adding at the end the following:
“(d) In any case in which the attorney general of a State has
reason to believe that an interest of the residents of that State has
been or is threatened or adversely affected by any person who violates
section 1591, the attorney general of the State, as parens patriae, may
bring a civil action against such person on behalf of the residents of
the State in an appropriate district court of the United States to
obtain appropriate relief.”.
(b) Technical and Conforming Amendments.–Section 1595 of title 18,
United States Code, is amended–
(1) in subsection (b)(1), by striking “this section” and
inserting “subsection (a)”; and
(2) in subsection (c), in the matter preceding paragraph
(1), by striking “this section” and inserting “subsection
(a)”.
SEC. 7. <<NOTE: 47 USC 230 note.>> SAVINGS CLAUSE.

Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be
construed to limit or preempt any civil action or criminal prosecution
under Federal law or State law (including State statutory law and State
common law) filed before or after the day before the date of enactment
of this Act that was not limited or preempted by section 230 of the
Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 230), as such section was in
effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act.
SEC. 8. <<NOTE: Time period. Reports.>> GAO STUDY.

On the date that is 3 years after the date of the enactment of this
Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study
and submit to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House of
Representatives and of the Senate, the Committee on Homeland Security of
the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs of the Senate, a report which includes the
following:
(1) Information on each civil action brought pursuant to
section 2421A(c) of title 18, United States Code, that resulted
in an award of damages, including the amount claimed, the nature
or description of the losses claimed to support the amount
claimed, the losses proven, and the nature or description of the
losses proven to support the amount awarded.
(2) Information on each civil action brought pursuant to
section 2421A(c) of title 18, United States Code, that did not
result in an award of damages, including–

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(A) the amount claimed and the nature or description
of the losses claimed to support the amount claimed; and
(B) whether the case was dismissed, and if the case
was dismissed, information describing the reason for the
dismissal.
(3) Information on each order of restitution entered
pursuant to section 2421A(d) of title 18, United States Code,
including–
(A) whether the defendant was a corporation or an
individual;
(B) the amount requested by the Government and the
justification for, and calculation of, the amount
requested, if restitution was requested; and
(C) the amount ordered by the court and the
justification for, and calculation of, the amount
ordered.
(4) For each defendant convicted of violating section
2421A(b) of title 18, United States Code, that was not ordered
to pay restitution–
(A) whether the defendant was a corporation or an
individual;
(B) the amount requested by the Government, if
restitution was requested; and
(C) information describing the reason that the court
did not order restitution.

Approved April 11, 2018.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY–H.R. 1865:
—————————————————————————

HOUSE REPORTS: No. 115-572, Pt. 1 (Comm. on the Judiciary).
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 164 (2018):
Feb. 27, considered and passed House.
Mar. 21, considered and passed Senate.
DAILY COMPILATION OF PRESIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS (2018):
Apr. 11, Presidential remarks.

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