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IBM breaks with Google, Facebook to support sex-trafficking bill

Mary Altaffer / AP

IBM threw its support behind an anti-sex-trafficking bill that online platforms such as Google and Facebook are lobbying against.

IBM's move: In a letter to bill sponsors Sens. Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal, IBM's top lobbyist Chris Padilla wrote that, while the company is optimistic about the positive benefits of technology, "we also support appropriate, balanced measures to prevent new technologies and online services from being abused by criminals."

Between the lines: In joining other tech companies like Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in publicly supporting the bill, IBM distances itself from the position of the major platform companies that oppose the bill, which Google and Facebook say undermines their business model by making them legally liable for some content users post on their sites.

Of course, the companies throwing their weight behind the bill aren't platforms that host user-generated content. So they avoid any real business risk while still making a smart political move in supporting a bill to clamp down on the emotionally charged issue of sex trafficking

Meanwhile: Advocacy group NetChoice, which represents Facebook and Google, is taking a different tack by suggesting that law enforcement simply needs to better enforce existing laws to combat sex trafficking. "The DOJ already has all the power and permission it needs to prosecute trafficking sites and other bad actors like notorious sex trafficking website Backpage," NetChoice said in a press release.

Go deeper: Axios' David McCabe breaks down this issue in more detail here.