President Donald Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) on Wednesday — legislation that some say will help effectively combat online illicit prostitution, and others contend may compromise freedom of the internet.
The House originally passed FOSTA in February, and the Senate in March. Now, with Trump’s signature, the once-imminent bill becomes law.
The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke to several public officials, and relevant organizations on both side of the debate at the time of passage of both chambers, who all indirectly displayed a deep schism. Civil rights groups, like the influential Electronic Frontier Foundation, believe that while FOSTA “might sound noble,” it essentially equates to censorship and would “do nothing to stop sex traffickers.”
Some argue that the finalized version of the bill is more tailored to just sex trafficking and related crimes, meaning online platforms are no longer immune to the protections usually afforded. Due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are for the most part not liable for the millions (even billions) of pieces of content on the respective platforms. FOSTA provides a new exception to Sec. 230 for conduct that “promotes or facilitates prostitution.”
So while some organizations that focus on digital freedom and privacy are not supportive of FOSTA, most elected officials applaud its passage through the whole legislative process.
“This is a momentous day in the fight to help stop online sex trafficking, and a big victory for trafficking victims and survivors who for too long have been denied the opportunity to get the justice they deserve,” Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said in a press release following the news of Trump’s signing. “I’d particularly like to thank Senators Thune, Blumenthal, McCain, McCaskill, Cornyn, and Heitkamp for their leadership and hard work on this effort.”
In fact, FOSTA passed the Senate in a landslide 97-2 vote. The only two to vote against the bill were Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
“History shows that politicians have been remarkably bad at solving technological problems,” Wyden wrote in February. “I take a backseat to no one when it comes to fighting sex trafficking and locking up the monsters who prey on the defenseless. However, the bill … will make it harder to catch bad actors and protect victims by driving this vile crime to shadowy corners of society that are harder for law enforcement to reach.”
Trump, like Portman and several others, applauded the move.
“Trafficking is probably worse today than at any time in our history,” Trump purported, according to CNN. “You are not alone.”
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