A group of bipartisan senators led by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would give victims of crimes like revenge porn, sex trafficking and sexual assault the option to sue websites like Pornhub in civil court for hosting illegal content depicting them, the latest ramification for the adult entertainment giant after the New York Times reported the site hosted and profited from footage of child abuse and sexual assault.

The Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act would allow victims of forced or coerced sexual acts, along with victims depicted in sexual imagery made public without their consent, to sue websites that knowingly host or distribute video or pictures of these acts.

It would also criminalize both the knowing distribution of media depicting these types of forced or coerced sexual acts and the knowing distribution of media depicting sexual acts as part of a “revenge porn” effort. 

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)The legislation was rolled out in the wake of a New York Times column published last week, which detailed allegations that the popular porn website Pornhub hosted videos that contained rape scenes, revenge porn and underaged sex. 

Hawley tweeted last week in reaction to the column that he planned to introduce the new legislation as a result of the reporting. 

“Sites like Pornhub routinely escape responsibility for facilitating abuse, trafficking, and exploitation, making millions for themselves in the process,” Hawley said in a statement on Wednesday. “Meanwhile, the victims of this abuse have little recourse against these powerful companies, who thrive on spreading depraved content. Serious criminal penalties are needed to crack down on these tech executives who think they are above the law.”

Hassan said in a separate statement that “we shouldn’t have to pass a law to keep companies from profiting by sharing, without consent, intimate images. But we do.“”The harm that these companies cause is extraordinary, lasts a lifetime, and should be unthinkable,” she added.

The legislation was introduced the day after Pornhub announced that it planned to immediately ban unverified content from being posted on its site and that it would prohibit users from downloading content in an effort to respond to the allegations brought against the site.

Hawley tweeted Tuesday ahead of the bill’s introduction that “if true, then Pornhub has nothing to fear from my legislation allowing victims of fraud, coercion, and sex abuse to sue them.”

The bill could also potentially impact the ongoing debate around reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media platforms from being sued based on third party content posted on their sites. 

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