Bill aims to aid victims, curb online explicit content

A bill that would expand current law to aid minors and victims of sex trafficking and sexual assault who have been exploited through online explicit content was considered Feb. 14 by the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Christy Armendariz
Sen. Christy Armendariz

LB1096, introduced by Omaha Sen. Christy Armendariz, would expand the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act to classify the manufacture, production, publication, distribution or public availability of any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, obscene material or material that is harmful to minors as a deceptive trade practice.

Armendariz said the bill would allow the state attorney general’s office to pursue bad actors on the internet through civil action. The bill also would allow for recovery of up to $4,000 per violation, as well as injunctive relief, she said.

“LB1096 allows protection beyond the geographic limits of current criminal jurisdictions to reach the world’s most prolific purveyors of exploitation of children and sex trafficking victims,” she said.

Bebe Strnad, chief of the Consumer Protection Bureau in the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, spoke in support of the bill. In today’s digital world, sexual assault and sex trafficking survivors are retraumatized when content depicting their assault or trafficking is posted online, she said. It often takes a significant amount of time and money to remove such content from websites, she said, and sometimes the situation is never resolved.

“The burden should not be on survivors to prevent further exploitation,” Strnad said. “They have endured enough.”

Also testifying in support of LB1096 was Ivy Svoboda, representing the Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers. She said Project Harmony, a child advocacy center in Omaha, and the Omaha Police Department together investigated and confirmed 34 cases of juvenile sex trafficking in the Omaha-metro over the past year.

Juvenile victims of sex trafficking often are marketed online, Svoboda said, and 59,000 commercial sex trafficking ads were found in the Omaha-metro area in 2023, many featuring juveniles.

Julie Shrader also testified in favor of the bill on behalf of Restored Wings, a nonprofit that supports individuals who have been trafficked. The passage of LB1096 could help “stem the tide” of trafficking and return a “sense of self worth, independence and humanity” to survivors, she said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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