Ivanka Trump Meets Sex Trafficking Bill Advocates Ahead of Vote

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(Bloomberg) -- Ivanka Trump met Tuesday at the White House with victims’ advocates, representatives of Big Tech and lawmakers who are poised to pass a bill within days to tackle online sex trafficking.

The bill, which has split the technology community, would narrow liability protections for websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. It’s one of the most concrete examples of increasing scrutiny in Washington of illicit online content.

Facebook Inc. and the Internet Association trade group, which also includes Alphabet Inc.’s Google, initially opposed the legislation, but announced their support in November after senators clarified that the websites must knowingly facilitate trafficking to run afoul of the law. Facebook’s shift also came after it faced scrutiny in congressional hearings over Russia’s use of the social media site to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, and representatives of the Internet Association and International Business Machines Corp. were also present at the meeting, as were several victims’ advocacy groups. The session was one of several events that Ivanka Trump, in her role as a top White House aide, has convened on the issue.

"This was an excruciating battle to watch and to witness and to participate in in the beginning," said Mary Mazzio, a documentary filmmaker and victims’ advocate who attended the meeting. "For the Internet Association to come around and support, kudos. Hats off to them."

Liability Protections

Other tech trade associations and think tanks have expressed ongoing concern that the bill would gut websites’ liability protections for third-party content and hurt startups. TechFreedom and Engine, two tech groups that pushed for last-minute changes to the bill, said they had not been invited.

Christopher Padilla, IBM’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs, said in a statement that the company urges passage of the bill "without any weakening amendments."

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the bill’s sponsor who also attended the White House meeting, said in an earlier speech on the Senate floor that he hoped the chamber would take up the bill "within the next week." He said it had support from 68 senators, effectively enabling it to bypass any procedural hurdles.

The House of Representatives has already passed legislation -- a move President Donald Trump celebrated in a statement while calling for changes based on concerns from the Department of Justice.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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