Why You Should Care About #SESTA
(Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)
Many of you know that in the last several years, Backpage has defeated numerous efforts by lawyers and state attorney generals across the country to try and shut them down.
To date, the law suits have NOT been successful. That’s mostly because of Section 230.
Seciton 230 is a piece of legislation where poiticians demonstrated amazing foresight.
The bill passed in 1996.
Section 230 says this:
…provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
In other words, you can’t be held liable for what someone else posts on your site.
Section 230 is what protects Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and the rest of the big social media platforms from being held accountable for that rude, mean and nasty post/picture that some troll put up on the site.
It also protects your blog, forum or ecommerce site where people can leave comments and reviews. You can’t be sued from someone else’s nastiness.
Possible or Impossible?
Backpage has managed to defend itself successfully against prosecution because it meets all the requirements of Section 230.
So some have come to believe that Section 230 makes it impossible to shut down Backpage.
The #SESTA bill wants to change that. The policymakers want to bypass Section 230.
Not only could this spell trouble for Backpage, it could spell big trouble for all small businesses online.
Now…. this is important… Section 230 expressly does NOT apply to federal prosecutions.
The Backpage lawsuits have so far been tried by state courts.
Here Come The Judge
So when the Department of Justice gets involved what do you think is going to happen?
Section 230 won’t apply, so the legal arguements will be made in other ways…
Ways that could be devastating to Backpage and all those who earn a living from posting there, as well as small internet business owners everywhere.
The It’s likely the DOJ will use the SAVE Act, crafted by Congress as an anti-Backpage crime bill.
That’s what they call it, but it’s the door beginning to be closed on freedom of speech as we know it now.
However, the SAVE Act has a high scienter requirement, a legal term that refers to intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.
That puts the onus on the DOJ to prove Backpage knew that the posts by third parties were for sex trafficking victims. Good luck with that.
That’s why it’s likely the DOJ will look for and find other applicable crimes to accuse Backpage of.
Do you see the ugly slope that is being created here?
If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of this issue Eric Goldman of Santa Clara University School of Law has written a report on how #SESTA could be a real detriment to many online businesses that are innocent opening them to prosecution and to being shut down.
Read Sex Trafficking Exceptions to Section 230 by Eric goldman.
Take a look at these videos below and get a better sense of what the #SESTA bill is about… and NOT from politicians, but from lay people who are concerned about this issue.
Thank you for reading. Have a sensual day. Dyann xoxo