Sex-trafficking ban bill passes Senate but worries internet activists


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A bill aimed at curbing sex trafficking is on its way to President Donald J. Trump’s desk after passing the U.S. Senate on Wednesday March 21.  

The Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA) holds websites legally responsible for user-posted content that promotes prostitution. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version, known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), in February. Some internet activists groups are concerned that the bill will limit free speech, and hamper small tech companies that cannot afford to constantly moderate their sites.

“Today is a dark day for the internet,” tweeted the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the most vocal opponent of this legislation. SESTA/FOSTA will silence online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users,” reads a separate EFF post.

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What SESTA/FOSTA Does

The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a provision that prevents websites from being held liable for what users post.

“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,”  Section 230 reads.

Under SESTA, websites would be held liable if their platform is intentionally used to sell sex. Backpage.com, which has long been a hub for sex trafficking, is the impetus behind the law (Arc Technica). If Trump signs the bill, Backpage.com would likely need to change its policy or risk being held liable. 

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