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Congress Tangles With Big Internet

by Countable | 9.19.17

What’s the story?

The debate surrounding the role of internet companies in preventing sex trafficking and other illegal activities from occurring on their networks took center stage today in the Senate.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee met Tuesday morning to discuss a bill known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) that would overhaul Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That law shields companies like Facebook from being held liable for actions taken by users of their platform.

Why does it matter?

Proponents of SESTA — such as Oracle and 21st Century Fox — argue that technology companies need to be held accountable if they’re allowing sex trafficking and other criminal activity to go on within their platforms. They say "it would establish some measure of accountability for those that cynically sell advertising but are unprepared to help curtail sex trafficking."

SESTA’s detractors — like the Internet Association which represents Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and others — say the bill would undermine First Amendment protections on the internet by exposing virtually any company that allows user-generated content to civil lawsuits. They fear it would allow "opportunistic trial lawyers to bring a deluge of frivolous litigation targeting legitimate, law-abiding intermediaries and create the potential for unpredictable, inconsistent enforcement".

What do you think?

Should technology companies be held liable for illegal activities done by users of their platforms? Would exposing those companies to liability interfere with their First Amendment rights and lead to frivolous lawsuits?

Tell us in the comments what you think then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Eric Revell

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(Photo Credit: coldsnowstorm / iStock)

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