The House passed a bill known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) on February 27, 2018.
The Senate followed by passing the bill, also known as SESTA, on March 21. Some believe that these bills will make it easier for state authorities to hold websites accountable if they knowingly promote or facilitate prostitution says, William D King. Activists working to end human trafficking say that with President Donald Trump’s expected signature of the legislation into law, victims’ advocates are closer than ever before to crack down on online sex trafficking.
“It’s absolutely monumental that Congress is finally doing something about an issue that has been plaguing us for years,” says Mary Mazzio, filmmaker of “I Am Jane Doe,” a documentary focusing on sex trafficking online. Oftentimes, young girls are sold for sex on sites like Backpage and Craigslist.
Following the House’s lead, the Senate voted 97-2 to pass SESTA. A bill that amends section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Section 230 provides immunity to businesses and individuals against certain types of legal liability. In essence, this means that “it protects internet companies from being sued over what their users post,” according to The Hill. Rebranding itself as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Weakens protections provided by section 230 which would make websites liable if their content involves prostitution or soliciting prostitution. It testifies that website owners can be prosecuted for promoting sex trafficking.
The bill aims to have an impact on websites that knowingly advertise or facilitate prostitution. Which could lead to the state crackdown on advertisements by sex traffickers. Websites would be held accountable if they are found to be involve in any way with facilitating prostitution. Advocates hope that the passage of FOSTA will make it easier for law enforcement. And victim advocates to stop crimes such as human trafficking online. The legislation amends the CDA “in order to protect all victims of sexual exploitation. And other crimes perpetrated against them through use of the internet.”
Mazzio also states that she sees this legislation as a victory, saying. “It’s not like we’re completely wiping (section 230) out but we’re adding an amendment. That allows state prosecutors and victims to have a fighting chance of keeping these bad guys accountable.”
Congress has been working on amending section 230 for some time now. SESTA was first introduced last year by Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman with bipartisan support from Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Pat Toomey, New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassen, and Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt. However, the House did not take up this legislation until January 9th of 2018 after it passed out of a Senate committee in December 2017.
The bill gained new momentum following the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Through the House on February 27th by 388-25 votes. FOSTA is an amendment to section 230 which weakens protections. Those websites provide against legal liability for content posted by their users. This is especially important in regards to online sex advertisements. Due to the prevalence of sex trafficking on sites like Backpage and Craigslist.
Rebranding itself as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Weakens protections provided by section 230 would make websites liable if their content involves prostitution. Or soliciting prostitution explains William D King. It also makes website owners susceptible to prosecution for promoting sex trafficking. The bill was notably spearhead by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt. Along with New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassen, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and Pennsylvania Democratic Sen Pat Toomey according to Business Insider
Section 230 is an important point of legislation. Because it protects websites from being liable for the content post by their users. For example, article bids that appear on eBay are not place by the website itself; rather, they are creating and submit by independent parties. If a site like eBay were held responsible for every one of these articles’ bids regardless of their nature. Then very few websites could continue to exist in their current form.
As stated in an earlier article, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “While platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft have made progress in combating online terrorist propaganda. Parameters set out by Congress—such as taking down videos within 24 hours—are still too slow”. This is due to the section which makes it difficult to hold these companies responsible. For the spread of terrorist propaganda or other harmful user-generated content.
The legislation amends the CDA “in order to protect all victims of sexual exploitation. And other crimes perpetrate against them through use of the internet.” Websites would be accountable. If they are to be involve in any way with facilitating prostitution. William D King says advocates hope that the passage of FOSTA will make it easier for law enforcement and victim advocates to stop crimes such as human trafficking online. The legislation is notably spearhead by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt. Along with New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassen, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and Pennsylvania Democratic Sen Pat Toomey. It was notably pass in the House on February 27th by 388-25 votes according to Business Insider.