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Pompeo delivers remarks on 2019 human trafficking report.

Trump signs law to punish websites for sex trafficking
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at penalizing website operators that facilitate online sex trafficking and chipping away at a legal protection for the technology industry.

The law is intended to make it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that kept exploitative material on their platforms, although victims would be required to show websites knowingly facilitated sex trafficking.

Silicon Valley has long opposed efforts to rewrite the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from liability for content posted by their users and has been credited with fueling the sector’s growth for 20 years.

Some technology companies fear the bill could signal more efforts to tighten regulation on the industry.

Law enforcement has lobbied for such legislation for years, and the bill had drawn support from Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House adviser.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs H.R. 1865 “The Allow States and Victims To Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“This is a momentous day in the fight to help stop online sex trafficking, and a big victory for trafficking victims and survivors who for too long have been denied the opportunity to get the justice they deserve,” said Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

On Monday, an indictment against, the internet’s second-largest classified ads website, which is used for sex trafficking, was unsealed.

Trump, who had been expected to sign the bill, did not respond to reporters’ questions when he signed it.

Reporting by Makini Brice and Jeff Mason; editing by Jonathan Oatis

This Tulare man sold young girls for sex across Valley, state

A man accused of selling at-risk teenage girls for sex across Tulare County and the state is headed to prison.

Judge Juliet Boccone sentenced Myron Johnson, 21, to 30 years in prison for human trafficking. Johnson pleaded no contest earlier this year to four felony counts of human trafficking of a minor.

He has a prior strike for a 2016 assault causing great bodily injury.

“Human trafficking is real, and it happens here,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. “I commend the work of law enforcement and prosecutors for never letting up in connecting the dots of this complex case and bringing these victims justice.”

On Jan. 20, 2017, Visalia officers were contacted by a teenager who said she’d escaped a home in Visalia after being held captive by Johnson.

The girl told police Johnson had been pimping her out for sex.

The victim said that Johnson threatened to kill her if she didn’t perform the sex acts. That same day, officers found Johnson at a Visalia motel.

He was arrested and bought to the downtown Visalia police station for questioning regarding the girl’s accusations.

That’s when investigators uncovered more crimes linked to Johnson.

Officers from Tulare and Visalia police departments and investigators with the District Attorney’s Office started linking Johnson to other victims of sex trafficking in the area.

MORE: Feds seize alleged sex trafficking site

Earlier in January 2017, Tulare police officers were investigating the whereabouts of a Tulare girl who’d been reported missing by her mother, prosecutors said.

The woman believed her daughter was being trafficked for sex.

Using the information provided by the mother, officers discovered the girl on

Backpage was shut down by federal law enforcement in April 2018.

The website was known for listing adult escorts and other sexual services. Authorities said advertising related to those services have been extremely lucrative.

Victims have been identified across the country, including several here in Tulare County.

MORE: Judge allows money laundering charges against Backpage execs

On Jan. 12, 2017, the victim was found during a traffic stop along with another victim in Tulare.

The victims eventually told detectives that Johnson would arrange for the girls to meet with “customers” and sell them for sex. He used text messages from Backpage advertisements, prosecutors said.

Throughout the course of the investigation, police found four victims, all were under the age of 18. Some of the victims were trafficked as far away as San Bernardino.

Family Services of Tulare County provided services to the victims. In addition to his sentence, Johnson must register as a sex offender for life.

STUDY: California is among the worst for human trafficking

“Human trafficking is a crime that hides in plain sight,” Ward said.

If anyone suspects trafficking, call local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.

The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office is a member of the Tulare County Human Trafficking Task Force.

The Task Force was established in 2014 to bring law enforcement and the community together to identify victims of all forms of trafficking, provide services to victims, and promote a successful investigation and prosecution of traffickers, DA officials stated.

MORE: FBI raid raises questions in Visalia neighborhood

Sheyanne Romero covers Tulare County public safety, local government and business for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @sheyanne_VTD