SESTA and the Future of the Internet

Sex trafficking is a horrific crime. But the Internet has provided
unprecedented solutions for prosecuting traffickers, as well as identifying
and helping victims. Right now, Congress is debating a number of bills to crack down on sex trafficking. Two of them are: SESTA – The Stop Enabling
Sex Traffickers Act and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The debate is being framed as something that’s
just between Congress and big tech companies. But the consequences of these bills would
impact everyone, and we should all be involved in the debate. Do we need new laws? New laws aren’t necessary for holding bad
actors accountable. In 2015, President Obama signed The SAVE Act,
a law that made it a felony to host ads for trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation online. However, to date, zero prosecutions have been
brought under it. Congress should be asking the Department of Justice why it hasn’t prosecuted more sex traffickers
and online bad actors under existing laws, not rushing to create new ones. Could these new bills have unintended consequences? The Internet has been built on a foundational
provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act, known as
CDA 230, which established a clear and universal standard of accountability for content on internet platforms. These new bills, in their current form, would
undermine CDA 230 by creating an unclear standard for content
moderation, forcing online platforms to over censor user-generated
content or risk prosecution. These bills would also open Internet content up to a patchwork of 50 different state and local
laws that are impossible to navigate. The Internet is a huge ecosystem of big and
small actors who would all be impacted by this legislation. As a coalition of Internet Freedom Groups
said in a letter to Congress: “Without these protections, online platforms as small
as a personal blog or as big as Wikipedia would face a flood of frivolous lawsuits and
potentially devastating filtering costs.” We need Congress to listen and be thoughtful
about new legislation. Congress should listen to law enforcement,
survivors and advocates, technology experts, and voters
like you. To stop sex trafficking, we need the full
power of the Internet. But the Internet isn’t just the handful
of powerful tech companies and government regulators weighing in on these
bills ­­— It’s you, and me, and everyone we know. Tell Congress that we all want to stop sex
trafficking, and we all should be part of the solution.

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