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Numerous experts in trafficking have pointed out that the visibility of online platforms can both aid law enforcement in apprehending traffickers and provide safety to trafficking victims.
Trafficking expert Alexandra Levy notes that the online platforms that FOSTA could undermine are the very platforms that law enforcement agencies rely on to fight trafficking: While more visibility invites more business, it also increases the possibility that victims will be discovered by law enforcement, or anyone else looking for them.
Winkler painted a fascinating picture of agents on his team posing as johns, gaining trust with traffickers, and apprehending them.
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It was a rare moment of clarity in the debate over FOSTA and its sibling bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. Since these bills were introduced, there's been little discussion of how law enforcement officers use the online platforms that the bills would threaten and how SESTA and FOSTA would make it more difficult for law enforcement to do its work.
Winkler made it crystal clear how heavily his work relies on online platforms: "We've conducted operations and investigations involving numerous perpetrators and victims.
By extension, it also makes it more likely that the trafficker himself will be apprehended: exposure to customers necessarily means exposure to law enforcement.
Levy submitted a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, in advance of last week's hearing, urging the Subcommittee not to go forward with a bill (.pdf) that would make it harder to apprehend traffickers and expose trafficking victims to more danger.