There are two bills racing through Congress that would undermine your right to free expression online and threaten the online communities that we all rely on. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) might sound noble, but they would do nothing to fight sex traffickers. What they would do is force online web platforms to police their users’ activity much more stringently than ever before, silencing a lot of innocent voices in the process.
We’ve already written extensively about SESTA and the dangers it would pose to online communities, but as the House of Representatives considers moving on FOSTA, it’s time to reiterate that all of the major flaws in SESTA are in FOSTA too.
Section 230 Protects Online Communities. Don’t Weaken It.
Like SESTA, FOSTA would erode a law referred to as Section 230. Passed in 1996, Section 230 says that online platforms can’t be held liable for their users’ speech, except in certain circumstances. Without Section 230, it would be extremely risky to host other people’s speech online: one lawsuit could destroy your company. Most social media sites wouldn’t exist, or they’d look very different from the ones we enjoy today.
Section 230 strikes an important balance for when and how online platforms can be held liable for their users’ speech. Contrary to SESTA’s supporters’ claims, Section 230 does nothing to protect platforms that are directly involved with breaking federal criminal law. If an Internet company is directly contributing to unlawful…