FAQ: The Human Trafficking Prevention Act

By Alexandra Haas, MPH

UPDATE September 26, 2017: Texas HR 112 and HB 2266 have not been passed onto committees for review, so the bills will not move forward this legislative session. The bills will be reintroduced next legislative session.

Easy access to pornography and prostitution hubs should never be the default situation, and yet currently it is. This easy access has real costs, facilitating sex trafficking and the cost of enforcing laws against human trafficking and possession of child pornography. Currently the tax payer foots that bill, all while pornography and prostitution hubs remain one easy click away for anyone, even minors, to access. The Human Trafficking Prevention Act aims to change that.

What is the Human Trafficking Prevention Act?

The Human Trafficking Prevention Act (1) reduces crime and protects children by making prostitution hubs, child pornography, revenge pornography, and obscenity more inconvenient to access by placing pornographic websites and prostitution hubs behind a virtual blinder rack; and (2) it creates a legitimate pool of funds to finance programs and groups that are working to offset the secondary harmful effects of easily accessible prostitution hubs, child pornography, revenge pornography, and obscenity. This act requires Internet Service Providers, computer and cell phone manufacturers to create pre-set filters to block pornographic/prostitution sites. A consumer would have to at least pay a $20 fee and prove they are not a minor to have the filter deactivated.

How will this act prevent and reduce demand for child sex trafficking?

This act will fund anti-trafficking and anti-child programs, such as the Human Trafficking Task Force and the victim’s compensation fund. In addition, it will make it harder to access prostitution hubs on the internet. At this point, anyone with internet access is one easy click away from online pornography and prostitution hubs. The groups backing the act interviewed men who bought sex, who all said that they “just wish it was not so easy to hire prostitutes” online. This act would make avoiding pornography and prostitution hubs the “easy choice.”

Studies show that minors lack the ability to manage online content in safe, healthy ways. Minors are increasingly struggling with compulsive internet and pornography use. There is a significant relationship between men’s pornography use and how frequently they purchase sex. In addition, there is significant relationship between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women. As exposure to explicit content increases, so does the likelihood that teens of both genders view women as sex objects and view sex as primarily physical, not relational. Worse yet, minors that view pornography are more likely to display sexually aggressive behavior.

Rep. Leach states in HR 112 that “Besides promoting unhealthy sexual expectations, the adult entertainment industry produces media that objectify women and children as well as depict rape and abuse; by associating violence with sexual gratification, these materials perpetuate the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual abuse images, and child pornography. Pornography has also been linked to such detrimental health effects as brain development complications, emotional and medical afflictions, the inability to form and maintain intimate relationships, and sexual addiction; these dangers not only affect people on an individual level but also contribute to the degradation of the family unit, frequently leading to marital dissatisfaction and infidelity.”

What is happening in Texas with this act?

State bills are important for this act because they pull directly from the existing state obscenity codes, which are clearer and stronger than the Federal code. States are also better able to enforce this law. In Texas, Rep. James White and Rep. Alma Allan have introduced the bipartisan House Bill 2266. This bill requires retailers to ensure that the products sold contain a digital blocking capability that makes obscene material inaccessible to minors and inaccessible to adults who do not pay a deactivation fee for access. In addition, Rep. Jeff Leach has introduced House Resolution 112 recognizing pornography as a public health hazard. Track the progress of HB 2266 here and HR 112 here.

What is the legal basis for this Act?

Currently in Texas, there is a $5 fee to visit strip clubs. That money enables hundreds of anti-human trafficking, anti-domestic violence, anti-child exploitation, and anti-pornography groups to function. The Constitutional legal basis for this tax was upheld in the Combs case and is the same legal basis supporting the filter deactivation fee. Also, the United States Supreme Court has long since recognized the secondary harmful effects of pornography. Pornography is not protected speech, which leaves it open for regulation by Congress.

Is there a federal law to support the state laws?

The Federal Filter Act is currently in the commerce committee and has yet to be signed into law by Trump. This act would ensure that online purchases would be shipped to the consumer with filters installed. To deactivate the filter, the consumer would still have to go to the local authorized retailer and pay a deactivation fee.

How will this act affect business?

Creating digital barriers, not unlike the barriers created on display racks for pornographic magazines, will not cause retailers and manufacturers of products that distribute the internet to lose money. Instead, it will create a new revenue stream that has the potential of a huge profit as retailers can charge an additional deactivation fee of their own to offset cost of compliance.

What are the bipartisan benefits of this act?

This act will (1) fight human trafficking; (2) reduce female objectification; (3) create a valid government revenue that finances state programs like the victim’s compensation fund; (4) reduce the prison population; (5) protect children and families, (6) uphold community standards of decency, and (7) protect the religious freedoms of consumers who do not want to be influenced by prohibited materials.

This act is not a crusade for prohibition. It is a campaign for common sense in making the healthy, safe choice the default rather than have pornography and prostitution hubs incredibly easy to access. Learn more about the Human Trafficking Prevention Act here. To outline how this act and similar acts are not a crusade for prohibition, but rather a push to better public health, the New York Times wrote an article called “It’s O.K., Liberal Parents, You Can Freak Out About Porn.” The entire article can be read here

Sources

  1. Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act. FAQ. www.humantraffickingpreventionact.com
  2. Farley, M. (2006). Prostitution, trafficking, and cultural amnesia: What we must not know in order to keep the business of sexual exploitation running smoothly. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 18, 109–144.
  3. Owens EW, Behun RJ, Manning JC, Reid RC (2012) The impact of Internet pornography on adolescents: A review of the research. Sex Addict Compulsivity 19: 99–122. doi: 10.1080/10720162.2012.660431 
  4. Farley, M., Macleod, J., Anderson, L., & Golding, J. M. (2011, March 28). Attitudes and Social Characteristics of Men Who Buy Sex in Scotland. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022645
  5. Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., & Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography and attitudes supporting violence against women: Revisiting the relationship in nonexperimental studies. Aggressive Behavior, 36(1), 14–20.
  6. TX HR112. 2017-2018, 85th Legislature. https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HR112/2017
  7. TX HB 2266. 2017-2018, 85th Legislature. https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB2266/2017
  8. Rep. Leach. (85)R HR 112-Introduced Version. http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/html/HR00112I.htm
  9. Rep. White. HB 2266. http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/html/HB02266I.htm