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Senator Dave Cortese Introduces SB 435 to End Online Sex Trafficking and Exploitation

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) has introduced SB 435, the “Ending Online Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation Act," the first bill of its kind in the nation to tackle online sexual exploitation and trafficking, giving victims, including children, more civil causes of action against the distribution of naked or sexual photographs and video.

The scope of the problem is immense and growing each year exponentially. In a small village in England, twelve women had their lives turned upside down when they found out that intimate personal photos had been stolen and posted on Pornhub. Each year teens commit suicide or harm themselves from the shame of being exploited online. California is the number one state on the list for most cyber sexual assault crimes committed annually.

Over 45 million children ages 10 through 17 use the Internet.

  • One in five has been sexually solicited.

  • One in four has encountered unwanted pornography.

  • Close to 60% of teens have received an e-mail or instant message from a stranger, and half have communicated back.

  • Over 75% of Internet crimes involving sexual solicitations of children and exposure to unwanted pornography are not reported to police or parents.

  • Some 71% of parents stop supervising Internet use by their children after the age of 14, yet 72% of all Internet-related missing children cases involve children who are 15 years of age or older.

According to a 2020 article in the New York Times entitled "The Children of Pornhub." ,

Sites like Pornhub are making billions of dollars by posting unauthorized, often stolen images. Their site includes pictures of child rape, assaults, and the ever-growing sector of revenge porn. Mainstream sites like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Google have also posted photos and videos of child abuse pornography. Google hosts companies whose business models include the sexual exploitation of children.

When a 15-year-old girl went missing in Florida, the girl's mom found her on Pornhub in 58 sex videos that the company monetized.

At the time of the article, a Google search returns 920 million videos if you search for "young porn." Top hits include a naked "very young teen" video engaging in sex acts on video.

To give you a sense of the magnitude of this problem, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported the number of images, videos, and other content related to child sexual exploitation complaints each year.:

  • 2015- it received reports of 6.5 million videos or other files.

  • 2017 -20.6 million reports

  • 2019 -69.2 million reports

“The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) has determined that the majority of human trafficking cases reported nationally each year are in the state of California.

Senator Cortese, along with the California Women’s Law Center, local advocates, and sexual assault survivors, is putting forward a bill in the California Legislature to end what he calls "human trafficking in the digital age."

Child sex trafficking is a significant issue in our state, and the Internet is its biggest platform," says Senator Cortese. "SB 435 will dismantle a billion-dollar industry that is profiting off of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape.

SB 435 would allow a victim of online sex trafficking to bring a civil action for damages, including compensatory damages and punitive damages, against any person or entity that makes, obtains, uploads, reuploads, or distributes in any form, including electronic distribution, non-consensual, sexually explicit content.

Actionable material includes content where a victim was under 18, content where a person of any age is coerced, tricked, or forced into performing a sexual act, and content that is sexual and circulated in any way without a person's knowledge or permission. This can include a photo or video originally taken in private with a person's consent but shared and distributed across the Internet without their consent.

Along with damages awarded to a victim, an offender must pay $100,000 for every 2 hours of online exposure of illegal content after given notice to take said content down. This amount is doubled to $200,000 every 2 hours if the victim of online sexual exploitation is under 18 years of age.

Any online service that breaks this law would have to disclose this violation publicly on their website.

This Bill is very thoughtfully put together, and if passed, will offer a powerful tool for victims of this terrible crime. Sharing nude images without consent is one of the cruelest forms of digital torture, and because this happened to Audrie. We know the pain it causes; we, of course, want to help anyone else who encounters this," says Sheila Pott, founder of the Audrie Pott Foundation that was created in memory of her daughter, Audrie Pott, who was sexually assaulted, cyberbullied and committed suicide eight days later.

“The anti-trafficking law proposed by Senator Cortese provides remedies to survivors of online sex trafficking that currently do not exist under California law. The cruelty and profit-motivated viciousness of an industry that preys on vulnerable victims, often women and girls, must be stopped.

Online trafficking of their photos shatters their lives. This bill will give victims the help they need,” says Ruth Silver Taube, a Commissioner on the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Commission and Supervising Attorney at the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Former Assemblywoman and Executive Director of the California Women’s Law Center, Betsy Butler, calls this the first piece of legislation of its kind to give online sexual assault victims sufficient legal avenues to fight back against their perpetrators. The California Women’s Law Center is a sponsor of SB 435.

This bill is also being supported by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Community Solutions, and the Enough is Enough Voter Project.

For more information about this bill and our other projects to end Human Sex Trafficking and Child Marriage, contact us at

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