April 11, 2018
Washington, D.C. – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today joined President Donald Trump in the Oval Office for the signing of a new federal law that allows state attorneys general to sue and charge advertisers who allow advertisements for human trafficking. Human trafficking has been one of Schuette’s primary initiatives since taking office in 2011.
Titled Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act or “FOSTA”, the new law will give state attorneys general, county prosecutors, and sex trafficking survivors an easier path to legal action against websites promoting advertisements for commercial sex encounters, such as recently shuttered Backpage.com. Anti-human trafficking advocates have long pointed to these websites as profiting from sex trafficking, including the sex trafficking of children.
Schuette today praised President Trump’s actions, calling the new law an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking and websites that participate in the buying and selling of children and other trafficking victims. Under FOSTA, state and local prosecutors can now charge website operators for “promotion or facilitation of prostitution” in state court.
“In my time as Attorney General, I have taken many steps to stop human trafficking and have worked with my law enforcement partners to pursue swift and decisive action against those who are engaged in this modern form of slavery,” said Schuette. “Before President Trump signed today’s bill into law, anti-trafficking laws couldn’t be used to go after websites that offered advertising for children being sold for sex. Now we can, and will, use these laws to shut down those that profit from the slavery of others.”
Angela Aufdemberge is President and CEO of Vista Maria, a Dearborn-based non-profit agency that provides treatment, education and care to at-risk girls and children. Aufdemberge advocates for legislation to protect victims of human trafficking as well as to provide survivors with needed physical and mental health services that aid healing and restoration.
“FOSTA legislation takes an important first step to curtail the use of the internet to aid commercial sexual exploitation and to prosecute facilitators. It is vital that we advocate for legislation that protects our children from websites that promote sex acts," said Aufdemberge. "Traffickers commonly force or coerce youth to create postings and these manipulated youth need to be protected and the traffickers and platform providers should be held accountable."
With FOSTA signed into law, website owners can no longer claim that they are unaware that human trafficking advertisements are appearing on their website or that they cannot prevent them from appearing.
The new law does the following:
Created by reallocating resources in the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, Schuette’s Human Trafficking Unit has placed an increased focus on combating human trafficking in Michigan, a priority Schuette identified upon taking office. The unit works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to uncover and prosecute cases of modern-day slavery involving both children and adults.
In addition to the law enforcement aspect, Schuette has also been a leader nationally as part of the National Attorneys General Association’s Pillars of Hope anti-trafficking initiative, and in Michigan where the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission is housed in the Department of Attorney General. The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission has recommended and promoted legislation that has been signed into law to protect victims of human trafficking.