Today, the U.S. Senate formally passed the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.” The bill that passed the Senate is based on Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as modified by the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) which passed the House. i2Coalition Policy Chair David Snead issued the following statement:
“The i2Coalition is disappointed to see this well-intentioned but flawed bill pass. While we are pleased to see Congress addressing this critical issue by giving law enforcement and victims legal tools to pursue and prosecute online traffickers and bad actors, we disagree with doing so at the cost of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Small to medium-sized Internet businesses have relied on Section 230 to ensure that those responsible for content are liable for their actions.
i2Coalition agrees with advocacy groups that specialize in combating sex trafficking, as well as the Department of Justice, in that this bill’s erosion of Section 230 will not adequately address the issue. It may negatively affect free speech or even be counterproductive to combating trafficking crimes. While we are hopeful that the bill will have the effects its supporters have promoted, we remain deeply concerned about its effects on small to medium-sized internet businesses.
Our primary concern arises from the way FOSTA and SESTA approached the same problem in very different ways. We previously supported FOSTA, as it was a narrowly drafted bill designed to effectively combat sex trafficking without eroding Section 230. With the addition of elements of the broad SESTA into FOSTA, this clear legal tailoring has been blurred.
While there is a perception that CDA Section 230 allows bad actors off the hook, it actually makes it possible for websites and service providers to partner with others in the industry, advocacy groups, and law enforcement in combating bad activities on the Internet. They are able to share signs of abuse, invest in new preventative technologies, and moderate content because of that legal protection. Without it, this collaboration is not able to continue.
We ask Congress to recognize and protect the Good Samaritan provisions under CDA 230. These provisions empower online platforms to combat sex trafficking. No Internet infrastructure provider wants to have its resources used for activities like human trafficking. In spite of our concerns about this legislation, we will continue to work with law enforcement, safety professionals, and groups like NCMEC, Polaris, and Thorn to end sex trafficking.”