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Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) S. 1693.
12-13-2017, 05:14 AM
Post: #1
Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) S. 1693.
Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) S. 1693
Similar Bill in the House (H. R. 1865) "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017" aka FOSTA

Provides up to 20-years in prison for websites or participation in a venture that involves:

Sex trafficking of children; or sex trafficking by force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion. So it does not include consenting adults. However, there is concern that advertising boards or review boards may choose to shut down to protect themselves in case there is illegal sex trafficking by force being promoted. Some States include consenting adults as "sex trafficking" but not most Federal laws that apply.

SESTA has broad bipartisan support with 53 cosponsors
Here are highlights of various responses:

SESTA weakens some of Section 230 to allow victims of sex trafficking to sue a website that supports or otherwise assists in the act in any way whatsoever. It would also open online companies up to state criminal prosecutions for user-generated content.

Initially, in August 2017 the first version was opposed by the Internet Association along with other trade groups because it was opening up online companies to extreme liabilities for practically anything that was uploaded to their services.

Not only would they have to defend themselves through costly legal processes for content that was uploaded, they’d likely have to engage in mass removals of legitimate content in the interest of playing it safe. The way the bill was written made it difficult for them to even self-monitor the content on their sites because to do so would mean that they are “knowingly” hosting illegal content. It was a catch-22 situation that would be difficult and transformative for major corporations, and almost impossible for new companies with limited funds.

However, in mid-November 2017 the bill was amended. The new language removed “by any means” wording.

The new language is “The term ‘participation in a venture’ means knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating a violation.”

Now The Internet Association and many others that opposed it are now supporting it.

The House bill ordered reported out of committee (to full House) on 12/12/2017

But the Electronic Freedom Foundation quickly pointed out that the amendments change very little. In a blog post, an EFF legal representative writes:

The words “assist, support, or facilitate” are extremely vague and broad. Courts have interpreted “facilitate” in the criminal context simply to mean “to make easier or less difficult.” A huge swath of innocuous intermediary products and services would fall within these newly prohibited activities, given that online platforms by their very nature make communicating and publishing “easier or less difficult.”

Additionally, SESTA language oddly place this new liability within a new definition of “participation in a venture.” Importantly, this would do nothing to change the existing state-of-mind standard in the last paragraph of Section 1591(a), which provides that sex trafficking liability attaches when an individual or entity acts in reckless disregard of the fact that sex trafficking is happening. This means that online platforms would be criminally liable when they do not actually know that sex trafficking is going on—much less intend to assist in sex trafficking.

On 11/30/2017, the House version which has 171 co-sponsors, was debated in Committee and the only witness against FOSTA was a California law professor. However, when the committee issued a summary it recaps four witness in favor of FOSTA, the opening statement by the Republican chairman, but omitted any comments by the law professor.

The law professor views FOSTA as a return to the bad old days when sites had two choices: Either exercise full editorial control over third-party content and hope nothing slips past, or avoid moderation altogether in order to sidestep liability.

“FOSTA would reinstate the moderator’s dilemma,” he told the subcommittee. “For the first time in over two decades, it would cause online services to question whether they should moderate content. Some services will conclude that it’s too risky to do so. If online services reduce or eliminate their moderation efforts, FOSTA may counterproductively cause a net increase in sex-trafficking promotions and all other types of antisocial content.”

He pointed out that current law (Section 230) does not preclude the federal government from prosecuting websites that are involved in illegal enterprises. He cited Department of Justice prosecutions of two services that published online prostitution ads, MyRedbook and Rentboy.

In large part, legislators have fashioned both FOSTA, much like its Senate sibling, SESTA, as a cudgel to wield against the online listings giant Backpage. The company has weathered civil and criminal court proceedings aimed at eliminating the adult-oriented classified ads its users pay to post. Even as politicians and prosecutors continue to cast Backpage as an “online brothel,” courts have generally ruled that Section 230’s grant of immunity applies to Backpage, just as it does to any other website.

An outspoken supporter of SESTA is Arizona's famous Senator and his wife that led the effort for the new Arizona pandering law that makes it a felony for anyone who "induces or encourages any person to become a prostitute or engage in an act of prostitution." A.R.S. 13-3209. This is why all the local Phoenix boards shut down when enacted a few years ago.

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