ENGADGET: How ‘sex trafficking’ just opened the censorship floodgates

Illustration by D. Thomas Magee

Throwing sex workers under the bus is actually the oldest profession.

In a 388 to 25 vote Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that makes websites criminally responsible if they can be seen as facilitating sex work. It still needs to get through the Senate, but with his daughter’s endorsement, Trump is anticipated to sign it. Along with its maddening misconceptions about preventing sex trafficking and helping victims, FOSTA-SESTA incorrectly defines sex work and sex trafficking as one thing.

It’s all about policing content. Just not racist or extremist content. Only the content Morality in Media (now known as National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a key proponent of FOSTA-SESTA) doesn’t like.

Now, you’d think that in a time when YouTube is plastered with extremist videos and Instagram gives murderers room to express themselves, some legislation would come along to encourage website owners to tackle thoseproblems. But you’d be wrong. Instead, conservative groups have rushed in to force changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Currently, 230 shields online intermediaries from liability for user-generated speech. Yet it also allows for prosecution of those intermediaries under federal criminal law (such as federal anti-trafficking statutes that are already in place).

The proposed changes to Section 230 are specifically designed to sweep nasty, awful sex people off the internet — along with the very sex trafficking victims they claim to be helping.

According to critics, FOSTA-SESTA (two bills Frankenstein-stitched together) is the worst thing to happen to the internet since the death of net neutrality. If this passes, “risk-averse platforms will likely block too much content to avoid criminal liability and civil claims,” the Center for Democracy & Technology explains.

This will inhibit everyone’s ability to speak freely and to access information. If platforms are compelled to use content filters to screen out potentially trafficking-related material, this effect will be amplified because automated filtering is notoriously overbroad.

Small platforms, such as specialized message boards and online communities that serve niche interests, will find it particularly difficult to survive under [FOSTA-SESTA]’s increased liability risk. [FOSTA-SESTA] would have the unintended consequence of reducing diversity of viewpoints and forums for speech online.

FOSTA-SESTA’s opponents include the National Organization for Women, the ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology, national sex work right orgssex workers of all stripes, AIDS United, sex trafficking victims’ rights groups, a variety of tech groups, and more — including the Department of Justice.

Read the full article:
How ‘sex trafficking’ just opened the censorship floodgates by Violet Blue
engadget, March 2, 2018