The new “Monster Hybrid” FOSTA-SESTA package, was passed 97-2 in the Senate today. The bill is a confusing mishmash of a bill, an act, some major overreach, and the facade of being a solution to #endhumantrafficking. After the Backpage.com scandal and child exploitation showing up on platforms such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, how can one be against legislation that thwarts sex trafficking and protects children??? Well, that’s exactly what they are counting on, our ignorance and small, independent platforms being crippled by the fear of committing a federal crime.
The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA), the amended Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) just passed today, and the House Judiciary’s version, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) passed this past February, and both have been wrapped up in a pretty little package and is on its way to Trump’s desk to potentially be signed into law within the next few months.
Not many in the truth movement have picked up what this actually means. It will have a debilitating effect on free speech because the fear to not censor will put in jeopardy the very research we do every single day to expose and spread awareness about child sex trafficking by the very nature of the subject matter. Nevermind putting the very same exploited children and victims it aims to protect into even more danger by putting them back on the streets and further underground.
If this bill becomes law, not only will it completely change how platforms deal with controversial content, it will increase censorship by magnitudes that we have never seen before. Platforms will be forced to overly censor to ensure, either through human moderation or algorithms, that any content that promotes, aids, references, or has the appearance of sex trafficking or prostitution be completely blocked or deleted. This also means that platforms will stop moderating all together to avoid being held responsible, but the new bill is broadly worded with no definitions or protocol, so its hard to decipher terms like “facilitate” or “knowingly” in regards to how an internet platform becomes an accomplice.
The most concerning to me is that the Internet Association, a large consortium of the mega providers and platforms on the internet, are all strongly in favor of this bill. That raised some red flags. So, who makes up the Internet Association you might ask?
That’s right, Google (Youtube, Hangouts, Gmail, etc.) Facebook, Twitter and suprisingly Reddit, all are pushing for this to be signed into law. This means that their competitors Steemit, Voat, Dtube, Bitchute and Gab will all suffer under the financial ramifications of breaking federal law and be open to civil and state lawsuits if victims claim they didn’t intervene. They will now be held accountable and liable for users content, so they will be forced to censor anything that falls under FOSTA/SESTA.
- Expand existing federal criminal sex trafficking law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. Platform owners could be prosecuted under the expanded law even if they didn’t know that people were using those platforms for sex trafficking purposes.
- Open online platforms to new criminal and civil liability for sex trafficking at both the federal and state levels.
- Expand federal criminal prostitution law to cover those who use the Internet to “promote or facilitate prostitution.” Many platforms would feel pressured to become more restrictive in their treatment of sexual speech.
- Change the law retroactively: an online platform could be prosecuted under state law or held civilly liable for sex trafficking for failing to comply with the law before it passed.
- Sex work will now be a federal crime.
- Victims will be pushed back on the streets where law enforcement can’t run covert online stings and aprehend sex traffickers
What can we do? We can still call our congressmen or senators, but we can also petition the White House to not sign FOSTA-SESTA into law.