FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act, are causing major concern among tech firms in the US.
The legislation may see companies become liable if their websites are used for sex trafficking, meaning any unmoderated online space puts owners at risk.
It seemingly contradicts section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects social platforms from illegal content generated by their users.
In response to the bills passing, several websites immediately removed their personals sections and forums. Many did so in anticipation of a potential sex trafficker using the site, rather than as a response to any illegal activity.
Law professor Eric Goldman wrote of SESTA: “The bill would expose Internet entrepreneurs to additional unclear criminal risk, and that would chill socially beneficial entrepreneurship well outside the bill’s target zone.”
There are additional concerns that the legislation will put sex workers in unnecessary danger. Vox reports on evidence suggesting sex workers benefit from transparent online sites where they can screen potential clients.
Their piece reads: “(…) due to the transparency provided by Backpage and similar sites, the number of identified victims of sex trafficking increased over a seven-year period from fewer than 31,000 to nearly 78,000.”
They ran the headline “A new law intended to curb sex trafficking threatens the future of the internet as we know it”, and the subheading “What FOSTA-SESTA actually does: rip a giant hole in the governing foundation of the internet”.
Read more here.