Text: H.R.5448 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (12/17/2019)

 
[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H.R. 5448 Introduced in House (IH)]

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116th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 5448

To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study 
  to assess the unintended impacts on the health and safety of people 
 engaged in transactional sex, in connection with the enactment of the 
 Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 
(Public Law 115-164) and the loss of interactive computer services that 
  host information related to sexual exchange, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                           December 17, 2019

 Mr. Khanna (for himself, Ms. Lee of California, Mrs. Watson Coleman, 
 Ms. Schakowsky, Ms. Judy Chu of California, Ms. Jayapal, Ms. Norton, 
Mr. Carson of Indiana, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and Ms. Tlaib) introduced the 
   following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and 
                                Commerce

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study 
  to assess the unintended impacts on the health and safety of people 
 engaged in transactional sex, in connection with the enactment of the 
 Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 
(Public Law 115-164) and the loss of interactive computer services that 
  host information related to sexual exchange, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``SESTA/FOSTA Examination of Secondary 
Effects for Sex Workers Study Act'' or the ``SAFE SEX Workers Study 
Act''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds the following:
            (1) People who engage in consensual, transactional sex 
        utilize online platforms to protect their health, safety, and 
        independence. This use includes building community connections, 
        distribution of harm reduction information and techniques, 
        identification and screening of potential clients, and 
        negotiating the terms of consensual, transactional sex 
        services, including condom use and other harm reduction 
        strategies.
            (2) Widespread discrimination against populations, 
        including LGBTQI+ individuals, particularly transgender women 
        of color, prevents many from accessing formal employment 
        resources and educational opportunities.
            (3) In the 2015 United States Transgender Survey conducted 
        by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 19 percent of 
        respondents reported having exchanged sex for resources, such 
        as for money, food, or a place to sleep. Transgender women of 
        color, including Black (42 percent), American Indian (28 
        percent), multiracial (27 percent), Latina (23 percent), and 
        Asian (22 percent) respondents were more likely to have 
        participated in sex work than the overall sample.
            (4) In the 2015 United States Transgender Survey, 
        respondents who experienced homelessness in the past year (17 
        percent) were more than three times as likely to have 
        participated in sex work during that year compared to the 
        overall sample.
            (5) On a broader scale, internet platforms foster 
        connections between people and play an integral part in 
        American society. Meaningful regulation of internet platforms 
        must take into account the role they play in the health, 
        safety, and privacy of all people's lives.
            (6) While policymakers, representatives of internet 
        platforms, and some advocates have discussed ways to mitigate 
        the use of internet platforms to decrease exploitation, people 
        who consensually trade sex are rarely involved in the drafting 
        of legislation or policies, or in assessing their impact, 
        despite being amongst the populations who are impacted by 
        legislation and policies related to the regulation of these 
        internet platforms.
            (7) On February 27, 2018, the House of Representatives 
        passed the Allow States to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, 
        known as SESTA/FOSTA. While SESTA/FOSTA holds websites liable 
        for user-generated content that facilitates sex trafficking, it 
        also impacts online platforms where users discuss consensual 
        sex work and related topics.
            (8) Contemporaneously with the passage of SESTA/FOSTA in 
        the Senate on March 21, 2018, websites preemptively shut down, 
        some directly citing the law's passage as the rationale for 
        closure.
            (9) One week before President Donald Trump signed SESTA/
        FOSTA into law (Public Law 115-164), the Department of Justice 
        seized Backpage.com and arrested Backpage employees, citing 
        promotion of prostitution and money laundering charges, similar 
        to the Department of Homeland Security's seizure of Rentboy.com 
        only a few years prior.
            (10) While these websites and individual accounts have been 
        closing down, there has been no national investigation 
        rigorously examining the impact of losing access to these 
        platforms on the health and safety of people in consensual, 
        transactional sex work. Regional and anecdotal information from 
        health and safety service providers and sex workers has pointed 
        to significant impacts on the health and safety of people who 
        engage in consensual, transactional sex.
            (11) Community organizations have reported increased 
        homelessness of sex workers, including of sex workers who are 
        caretakers for their families and have lost the economic 
        stability provided by access to online platforms.
            (12) Sex workers have reported a reduced ability to screen 
        potential clients for safety, and negotiate for boundaries such 
        as condom use, resulting in reports of physical and sexual 
        violence.
            (13) Many sex workers have turned to street-based work, 
        which has historically involved higher rates of violence than 
        other forms of transactional sex. Street-based sex workers have 
        frequently noted practices which harm their health and safety, 
        such as the confiscation of condoms by police, or use of 
        condoms as evidence of arrest for prostitution.
            (14) With this new level of precarity, isolation, and 
        vulnerability, there is substantial anecdotal evidence that 
        members of the sex work community are more frequently being 
        contacted by third parties seeking to engage in management 
        activities. This includes both sex workers who had always 
        worked independently, as well as those who have previously 
        experienced violence and exploitation by a third party.
            (15) The United States Government has long discussed the 
        importance of assessing collateral consequences when looking at 
        other industries. A comprehensive study is essential to 
        evaluate the impact on the health and safety of those involved 
        in consensual, transactional sex, who are increasingly losing 
        access to digital platforms, which have been used for harm 
        reduction information and techniques, and to screen clients. 
        Informed government policies begin with seeking out relevant 
        information to better guide our actions moving forward.

SEC. 3. STUDY ON UNINTENDED IMPACTS ON HEALTH AND SAFETY OF PEOPLE 
              ENGAGED IN TRANSACTIONAL SEX AS A RESULT OF THE LOSS OF 
              CERTAIN ONLINE RESOURCES.

    (a) Study.--The Secretary of Health and Human Services (in this 
section referred to as the ``Secretary'') in consultation as 
appropriate with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and the 
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use shall study the 
impacts on the health and safety of people engaged in transactional sex 
resulting from the loss of access to interactive computer services (as 
defined in section 230(f) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 
230(f))) in connection with the closure of websites (including 
Backpage.com) that host information related to consensual sexual 
exchange, on or after February 27, 2018, in anticipation of, or in 
response to, the enactment of the Allow States and Victims to Fight 
Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-164).
    (b) Interviews and Surveys.--The study under subsection (a) shall 
include interviews with, and surveys conducted by, nonprofit and 
community-based organizations that provide direct services to people 
engaged in transactional sex.
    (c) Topics.--The study under subsection (a) shall include 
assessment of the following impacts on people engaged in transactional 
sex:
            (1) Changes in access to technology-related harm reduction 
        services.
            (2) Changes in ability to negotiate terms with potential 
        clients.
            (3) Changes in experiences of violence from clients.
            (4) Changes in interactions with law enforcement officials, 
        including changes in police surveillance, stops, and arrests.
            (5) Changes in contact from third parties.
            (6) Changes in relationship to and reliance on third 
        parties.
            (7) Changes in experiences of exploitation.
            (8) Impacts on access to economic resources.
            (9) Impacts on homelessness and housing stability.
            (10) Impacts on mental health.
            (11) Impacts on vulnerability to the transmission of HIV 
        and other sexually transmitted infections.
            (12) Changes in participation in other criminalized 
        behavior.
            (13) Disparities in these effects on key populations 
        typically underserved by service providers, specifically 
        LGBTQI+ individuals, people living in rural areas, racial and 
        ethnic minorities, Tribal communities, people experiencing 
        exploitation and trafficking, and undocumented and documented 
        foreign nationals.
            (14) Any other impacts on people engaged in transactional 
        sex, as determined appropriate by the Secretary for inclusion 
        in the study.
    (d) Report.--Not later than one year after the date of enactment of 
this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Congress a report on the 
results of the study under subsection (a) and make such report 
available to the public.
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