[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.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, NetChoice welcomes the news that Turo, an online platform enabling people to share their personal cars with others, has countersued the city of San Francisco over attempts to treat and tax the startup as if it were a car rental company.
“This is yet another example of an entrenched cartel boxing-out a new competitor, just to limit consumer choice and keep prices high,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “If the city could force Turo owners to pay these exorbitant airport fees, then it could likewise impose the fee on anyone driving into SFO to pick up friends or family. That’s ridiculous, but so is the aim of this lawsuit.”
Unlike car rental companies, Turo is not in the business of renting passenger vehicles to the public – it owns no fleet of cars to rent. This distinction between a peer-to-peer car sharing platform and a car rental company has been observed by the State of California in its creation of a personal vehicle sharing framework in AB 1871. It has also been recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation which has observed that “peer-to-peer” car sharing programs are distinct from rental car companies. But, the city is ignoring this distinction with a tax that violates California law and the state’s constitution.
“Turo is not remotely like Enterprise or Hertz,” concluded Steve DelBianco. “The big rental companies convinced California tax authorities to let them avoid half a billion dollars annually in sales taxes on their fleet purchases. That lost tax revenue could go a long way to help airports such as SFO pay for services and infrastructure.”
Washington D.C. – NetChoice is concerned by reports of plans to amend the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA) to adopt problematic and controversial provisions of the Senate bill, “Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act” (SESTA).
“While we hope that SIREN retains the core provisions of FOSTA and its language on Section 230, we worry that some may try to pass a last-minute amendment that undoes the House Judiciary Committee’s hard work and coordination with law enforcement, victims groups, and experts in the tech industry,” said Carl Szabo, General Counsel and Vice President of NetChoice.
FOSTA is a bill that was crafted using guidance from law enforcement, victim advocates and the tech industry, working together to find the best solution to an incredibly pressing problem. It answers the problematic provisions of SESTA while strengthening the ability of state, local, and federal law enforcement agents to stop sex trafficking both on the internet and on the streets.
“We’ve already seen that Section 230 is not a bar to discovery in Jane Doe v. Backpage. And we’ve seen that Section 230 is not a bar in other civil suits against Backpage. Hopefully law makers will look past the plaintiff bar’s fiction about Section 230 and instead take the Judiciary committee’s unanimously approved FOSTA language,” Szabo concluded.
“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 nation’s highest court just confirmed what we have always said: states cannot impose their tax collection burdens on businesses who don’t have a physical presence in the state. Today’s decision is a victory for small businesses across the country. No longer having to worry about increased tax burdens, our nation’s entrepreneurs can stay focused on innovating and competing to better serve their customers.”