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Why Some Tech Companies Oppose Sex Trafficking Bill

by Countable | 2.27.18

What’s the story?

  • The House is considering a bill aimed at combating sex trafficking.

  • Some in the tech industry are worried that one of the proposed changes could make website owners responsible for the material their users post, forcing them to police user content.

Why does it matter?

  • Current law prevents tech companies and websites from being liable for the content users post on their platforms.

  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) says that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" (47 U.S.C. § 230).

What would change? Why?

  • The House wants to modify the CDA as part of its efforts to strengthen the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).

  • Tech groups prefer FOSTA over the Senate’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which does more to undercut CDA protections.

What’s the concern with SESTA?

  • SESTA makes it easier for victims of sex trafficking – and other users – to sue websites and tech companies that "knowingly" promote illegal activity.

  • Tech and privacy advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said the latest version of FOSTA "incorporates most of the dangerous components of SESTA."

"This new Frankenstein's Monster of a bill would be a disaster for Internet intermediaries, marginalized communities, and even trafficking victims themselves."

  • According to EFF, the bill would "force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before, silencing legitimate voices in the process."

  • On Friday, a conglomeration of tech advocacy groups – including TechFreedom, Citizens Outreach, and Committee for Justice – sent a joint letter to Senate leaders in support of FOSTA—as long as it doesn’t include SESTA provisions.

"The Senate legislation would harm, not help, sex trafficking victims, whereas the House bill would not raise the same significant concerns. Thus, the two bills cannot simply be merged."

What do you think?

Are you concerned the latest version of FOSTA would "force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before" and silence “legitimate voices in the process”? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: Blackzheep / iStock)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(24)
  • Georgette
    02/27/2018
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    Unless it was an actual sex trafficking site fine, however, if they hold the website liable because of a user that would open a huge can of worms. A person could then hold a liquor store liable and gun shop owner and I would say conservatives would not like the latter.

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  • sit-down-and-be-counted
    02/27/2018
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    This is a bleeding heart easy push by the GOP. This is evidenced by the reactions of usually reasonable people on Countable who are suddenly clutching their pearls and saying, “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” If tech groups, who actually know the ins-and-outs of the internet (unlike ancient, willfully ignorant GOP legislators) say SESTA will hurt trafficking victims more I believe it. Yes, they make milions. So do our legislators who are bought by special interests. This is a showy red herring, nothing more. Tech companies also see WAY more than we do on a daily basis to what is effective and what isn’t online. Please listen to the innovators of the internet and stop kneejerking over children. Protect children intelligently, not emotionally!

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  • KansasTamale
    02/27/2018
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    Why is the GOP picking on Internet websites in this way. We can’t sue gun manufacturers or the NRA for deaths caused by guns, but the GOP is willing to allow people to sue websites for what might be on it even without its permission?? What’s wrong is websites don’t line the pockets of the GOP the way the NRA does. This is ridiculous. The laws we have now are fine. Perhaps more rigorous examination of leads, etc would stop the situation.

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  • Anthony
    02/27/2018
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    What is worse? Dedicating some resources to a new cause or let sex traffickers use your site for a mean of advertisement?

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  • BeStrong
    02/27/2018
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    This is the definition of ‘slippery slope’. ISPs need to enlist due diligence over content, as they continue to make money, hand over fist. But there is always the concern that this opens the door to content control as defined by the government. These entities must self audit or they will pay the price. It’s time that they took responsibility along with the profits.

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  • Rosa
    02/27/2018
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    It is unfair for this websites to make millions of dollars at the expense of young children!

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  • Julia
    02/27/2018
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    It’s not about not holding sites accountable for sex trafficking, it’s about holding the user that posted the content accountable. Sites should still police their content, but there has to be some level of protection for them. There needs to be clearer language and a better balance of accountability. Suing the websites isn’t going to stop the root source, the individuals posting, and a lot of times it’s not even clear that that is what they’re advertising. There should be better platform policing and more company accountability, but more of a line needs to be drawn.

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  • Tooluser1
    02/27/2018
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    Typically authoritarian approach. Given the choice between legalizing behavior between consenting adults and thereby destroying the "black market" economically and censoring free speach while criminalizing legal service providers guess which approach they'll demand....

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  • NoHedges
    02/27/2018
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    This seems to be a backdoor way of attacking social media. I am not sure what the actual goal is, but I can nearly guarantee it is NOT for the benefit of our children. This administration doesn't care at all about sexual abuse, children, or protecting its citizens. There is another agenda to this legislation. This is another King Cove land exchange...

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  • Pat
    02/27/2018
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    Well this is a whole Lotta crap. What we have sick written on our four heads? Now you mean to tell me that they can’t refuse customers because it’s against the law what they’re doing that’s one question? The second And websites already have to police there what’s going on what’s being put on through their system Facebook is now having to check and other websites have to check to see if there’s mentally ill people or if there somebody somebody else breaking the law or what so you can’t really write a lot it that restricts you from going to court. But that that’s a nice thought you’d like to have your cake and eat it too but you can’t just take the money from everyone you’re going to have to turn some people away if they don’t understand that it’s against the law and they do have to happen to slip through the cracks we are covered you didn’t you told them that they could not do those things and they did. Please don’t try to insult our intelligence or try to get away with something I ate or try to get the ledge sway the legislators I don’t know what you’re doing but that’s none of this makes any sense to me. This is a very important issue sex trafficking it’s going on right now on the Internet on the dating lines. If that were true those people would’ve been in court every day and we wouldn’t be seeing him today on our Internet. They have women on there that they’re trying to make them look like sex objects for profit. We don’t know whether they’re being forced to do it or they’re just doing it and we don’t know what is going on but women are not sexual objects they’re smart intelligent human beings they don’t need to be patronized are used and paid for. I normal sexual relationship comes when two people consent they’re in love their married and one is not using the other one. And you can’t buy that and there is always going to be people selling stuff but I would like to see sex trafficking and laminated. And a stop to man buying women for their pleasure how sick is that what if it was the other way around you wouldn’t allow women to do it. And what about your mother your sister your daughter? There are no excuses no excuses for these behaviors middle of trying to portray it for him too long now it’s time to stop grow up boys. You cannot dream that a woman is a certain way that’s not right but what you’re trying to make her into is a fantasy. It was a fantasy when the slaveowners on to people it’s a fantasy when the drug owners think that they own people the drug dealers the drug sellers that owners and that is the big issue isn’t it isn’t it. Stop objectifying women. You don’t define them they define who they are stop putting people down people should never put themselves down they sure don’t need you to do itJust just passed the bill bill.

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  • PaxAmericana
    02/27/2018
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    Oh my gosh, I don’t CARE if our posts are regulated. STOP CHILD TRAFFICKING NOW! This ought to be common sense.

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  • Christian
    02/27/2018
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    Unless a direct threat, clear evidence of, or media (photos or videos) show trafficking, social media shouldn’t be held accountable. The FBI should focus on using their resources to stopping those type of people before they can get online with their crimes

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  • Phillip
    02/27/2018
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    If even one young boy or girl is saved by the legislation then it’s worth pursuing. However. What I can see happening is that the digital trails and leads that used to come from these idiots posting details online will be driven underground thus making LEO jobs harder to investigate and catch them. It only serves to silence the street pusher so to speak rather than move to the organized groups who are providing the service.

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  • Courtney
    02/27/2018
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    This issue is obviously very complicated and nothing is clear cut. However, if it takes me being monitored more to make sure that sex trafficking stops, I’d be willing so long as we see real change. That being said I think the Govt should step in and regulate the sex worker industry as best as we can because then we can make sex workers safe and people who use their services safe too. Overall, I believe if we regulate prostitution , we can regulate sex trafficking and catch more predators.

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  • Awilda
    02/28/2018
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    I think that yes they need to make laws to hold websites accountable. The same laws that apply to television should apply to websites. This has become a free for all on the internet. Hey i am not a prude. I believe prostitution should be legalized and tax. Clean up the profession. But not in the internet children can see it. As long as their are men willing to pay for it and women selling or vise versa it will happen. We have thousands of problems in this country we need to find solutions not create more problems or at least control the problems. I am sure our defects would not be so high and health care cost would decrease.

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  • Pat
    02/27/2018
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    Sex trafficking bill sorry it wouldn’t come up on the website so I sent a private email to Senator Brown but it you’re getting the same thing here I couldn’t get it to work

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  • Terry
    02/27/2018
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    Probably the # of hits are used to charge higher advertising fees.

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  • Jesse
    02/27/2018
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    This a bad thing for kids

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  • Jeanne
    02/27/2018
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    Good issue to address - make it tough!

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  • NotAmused
    02/27/2018
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    Holding tech companies legally responsible for material posted by users is the proverbial slippery slope. Some things really are best left to correction by the marketplace, and this is one. That said, if a tech company can be shown to have continued providing service to a user they know is conducting sex trafficking and/or other felonies via their site then they should certainly face charges.

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