Tech companies are concerned about the retroactive provision. The bill “includes a provision the Department of Justice has said is unconstitutional,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at e-commerce trade group NetChoice, said in a statement. “At a minimum, Congress should not deliberately pass unconstitutional legislation. This provision can easily be fixed through a simple amendment and clear report language.”
Washington D.C. – Today, NetChoice welcomed the Senate’s efforts to address the problems of sex trafficking via the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) but called for more work to address technical faults with the legislation.
“Sex trafficking victims deserve a law that stands up to constitutional scrutiny and provides the protections necessary to ultimately end a scourge that has harmed so many,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Unfortunately, FOSTA includes a provision the Department of Justice has said is unconstitutional. At a minimum, Congress should not deliberately pass unconstitutional legislation. This provision can easily be fixed through a simple amendment and clear report language.”
If the Senate takes the time to amend the bill in this way, NetChoice looks forward to working with legislators on another straightforward fix. The Senate should add a single sentence to the bill making explicit what the sponsors have said publicly many times: the Good Samaritan provision of Section 230 remains intact. Otherwise the legislation, well-intended though it is, is likely to interfere with the desired result of stopping sex trafficking.
Carl Szabo, general counsel for NetChoice, said the trade group hopes “the law is not abused to undermine things like user-generated content or small businesses that have no interest in and are actually fighting sex trafficking.” The Internet Association said Tuesday it “will defend against attempts to weaken these crucial protections.”
[UPDATED 3/7/18] Washington D.C. – Today, NetChoice voiced its renewed support for legislation to combat sex trafficking on the internet, and welcomed attempts by the House of Representatives for taking action to address this urgent national priority.
With the House action today, it remains to be seen how courts will interpret both the sex trafficking provisions and the broader law of which it is a part. “With the final architecture of the bill now coming into focus,” Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice said, “we hope and expect that courts will take its sponsors at their word that the new law protects consumer privacy, user-generated content, smaller web enterprises, and freedom of expression. Protecting these bulwarks of a healthy internet will be a proud accompaniment to this final step toward ensuring justice for sex trafficking victims.”
As a voice for consumers who rely on user-generated content across the internet, NetChoice is pleased that the original Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), has been strengthened with the addition of new criminal authorities for both federal and state prosecutors. These additional provisions are designed to ensure that cracking down on websites engaged in illegal activity is accomplished in a way that does not threaten legitimate and socially useful websites, compromise consumer privacy, unfairly disadvantage smaller web enterprises, or chill freedom of expression.
“The House Judiciary additions to the legislation were crafted after listening to the concerns of advocates of sex trafficking victims, law enforcement, and tech experts,” said Szabo. “While we are concerned with additions such as the Walters amendment, we look forward to the Senate taking the opportunity to make adjustments based on concerns raised by the Department of Justice and echoed by the White House.”
What if there was a bill that would make it easier for federal, state, and local law enforcement to prosecute sex-traffickers?
What if the bill applied to sex-traffickers in back-alley streets or back-alley websites?
What if the bill provided victims with automatic compensation, saving victims the pain and cost of a civil trial?
What if the bill had the support of law enforcement groups like: the FBI Agents Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, and National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys? Read more
“This ruling by the federal court in Boston in the Jane Doe v. Backpage case is a great win for victims of sex trafficking and those working to stop bad actors like Backpage. It is a very positive sign that the victims will get their day in court, and that Backpage won’t be able to hide behind Section 230.
“This decision is especially welcome because it comes within the First Circuit. It will likely soon result in a favorable precedent at the appellate level as well.
“When the First Circuit previously considered this case, they made it clear they were not ruling on allegations that Backpage participated in web content creation. The plaintiffs wisely amended their complaint to allege this. As a result, they gained access to discovery that will allow even more specific allegations in this case.
“All sex trafficking victims should be encouraged by this decision. Meanwhile, as this case moves forward to limited discovery without restraint from Section 230, Congress should advance HR 1865, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 that creates new criminal liability and civil authorities to benefit victims and provide restitution.”
The replacement was apparently predicated on a submission to the House Judiciary Committee presented by Chris Cox, a former congressman and outside counsel for NetChoice, a bill supported by the Internet Association, SIIA, CCIA (all of whom count Google among their funders), and other powerful tech lobbying organizations. Cox had, only weeks earlier, testified against FOSTA before the House Judiciary Committee.
Former representative Chris Cox, now a lawyer for NetChoice, which represents many Internet companies, had suggested in his testimony to the committee that the legislation merely restate the intent of the CDA rather than rewrite it and create unforeseen problems. Cox was an original author of the CDA.
Although the new letter does not mention the tech industry’s role, some advocates point out that the language in the amendment closely mirrors a suggestion made by Chris Cox, a former congressman and lobbyist who serves as outside counsel for NetChoice, an advocacy group funded in part by Google. NetChoice declined to say whether Google was one of its larger donors, but noted that it has two dozen members. “We don’t speak for any one member, not do we represent any members,” spokesperson Carl Szabo, the group’s vice president, told WIRED.
“If this comes out of House Judiciary and it passes, this is likely the end of this whole exercise,” Mazzio said in an interview, saying the survivor community feels “betrayed.” She said the amendment seems to be largely pulled from language suggested by NetChoice, a trade association whose members include Google and Facebook. “How did that left turn happen? Why was it done in secret?”