Senator Ron Wyden is trying to stop the momentum on a bipartisan sex trafficking bill that will most likely pass the Senate early next year. The Commerce Committee has unanimously passed the bill.
The legislation allows the families of sex trafficking victims and states to sue websites that allow advertisements for sex with minors to be posted.
On Wednesday, Sen. Wyden issued a hold on the bill, arguing that it would stifle innovation and keep Internet and tech startups from launching. Wyden helped author the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The new bill would alter a provision in the act. The senator has also authored other anti-sex trafficking bills.
“Having written several laws to combat the scourge of sex trafficking, I take a backseat to no one on the urgency of fighting this horrendous crime,” said Wyden in a statement. “However, I continue to be deeply troubled that this bill’s approach will make it harder to catch dangerous criminals, that it will favor big tech companies at the expense of startups and that it will stifle innovation.”
In his statement, Wyden added, “Most innovation in the digital economy comes from the startups and small firms, the same innovators who will be harmed or locked out of the market by this bill.”
Those in favor of the bill say Wyden’s stance may be influenced by one of his major donors: Google. Google and its parent company Alphabet appear to be one of the only tech companies to not offer public support for the bill. The company has donated over $60,000 to Wyden’s campaign in the 2018 election cycle.
The bill’s main authors are confident that it will pass the Senate with broad bipartisan support.
The Internet Association has come out in support of the bill as well as California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Nevada Senator Cortez Masto is also in favor of the legislation.