Urgent: Senate to Take Up SAVE Act Today

We’re hearing that a version of the SAVE Act could be on the Senate floor as early as today. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the details of how it will be moved to a possible vote and even the effect of the proffered language – which is all the more reason for you to contact your Senator and let him or her know that this bill should definitely not be approved without significant debate about its impact.

What is clear is that the Senate has agreed on compromise language to fight sex trafficking. What is unclear is whether language drafted by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) will be offered as an amendment to that bill or even introduced as free standing legislation. Senator Kirk, you may recall, was the drafter of a really terrible version of the SAVE Act we opposed last year. It does not appear that he is trying to move that bill but the bill we hear he may be trying to move to the floor isn’t great either.

While the version we’re hearing about does not contain the really dangerous (and not particularly helpful in combatting sex trafficking) recordkeeping and notice requirements we really fear, it does add to those engaged in advertising to the list of people who can be convicted of sex trafficking. Specifically, the bill would rewrite the relevant statute, 18 USC 1591, to say that anyone who knowingly advertises a person that they know to be under 18 or know to be coerced into a commercial sex act can be punished via a fine, jail time (of at least 10 years) or both. Also worrisome is the fact that obstructing justice or interfering with attempts to prevent the enforcement of this statute could result in jail time of up to 20 years.

That seems to apply only to the person who places the ad. Or so we think. But there’s some question that the bill may even be broader than that, given that the term “advertising” isn’t clearly defined and could result in liability to those who accept advertising. That vagueness might once again defeat the sponsor’s best efforts to stop sex trafficking, as it would disincentivize those who take any adult advertising from screening, filtering or otherwise engaging in pre-publication review of the ads (so as not to be “knowingly” accepting an advertisement that violates the statute).

Even if the bill weren’t damaging to First Amendment rights and your very livelihood (while also still not appearing to do much in terms of combatting sex trafficking), that vagueness should be reason enough to make a Senator think twice about voting for this language when it gets to the floor. To date, no version of the SAVE Act has received a hearing or any other thorough review from a Senate committee. It’s simply being rushed through the Senate without much consideration.

You can help put a stop to that. Contact your Senator today and ask him or her to oppose Senator Kirk’s amendment to 18 USC 1591.

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