The EFF's case opposing US internet censorship under the recent FOSTA law is dismissed by a federal court
|26th September 2018
See article from eff.org
See court decisiom [pdf] from assets.documentcloud.org
A federal court considering a challenge to the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA , dismissed the case on Monday.
EFF and partner law firms filed a lawsuit in June against the
Justice Department on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist to block enforcement of FOSTA.
Unfortunately, a federal court sided with the
government and dismissed Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. v. United States. The court did not reach the merits of any of the constitutional issues, but instead found that none of the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the law's legality.
We're disappointed and believe the decision is wrong. For example, the court failed to apply the standing principles that are usually applied in First Amendment cases in which the plaintiffs' speech is chilled. The plaintiffs are
considering their options for their next steps.
FOSTA was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of fighting sex trafficking, but the poorly-written bill contains language that criminalizes the protected speech of those who
advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex workers. Worse yet, the bill actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
The lawsuit argues that FOSTA forces community forums and speakers
offline for fear of criminal charges and heavy civil liability, in violation of their constitutional rights. We asked the federal court to strike down the law, though the government argued that the plaintiffs were not likely to be subject to criminal or
civil liability under the law.
|28th July 2018
US House Judiciary Committee Falsely Claims Credit For Stopping 90% Of All Sex Trafficking Because Of FOSTA internet censorship
article from techdirt.com
Law Is Causing Online Censorship and Removal of Protected Speech
|20th July 2018
18th July 2018. See press release from eff.org
On Thursday, July 19, at 4 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to put enforcement of FOSTA on hold during the pendency of its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. The hold is needed, in
part, to allow plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a sex worker advocacy group, to organize and publicize its annual conference, held August 2-5.
FOSTA , or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was
passed by Congress in March. But despite its name, FOSTA attacks online speakers who speak favorably about sex work by imposing harsh penalties for any website that might be seen as facilitating prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. In Woodhull
Freedom Foundation v. U.S. , filed on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist, EFF maintains the law is unconstitutional because it muzzles constitutionally protected
speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces speakers and platforms to censor themselves.
Enforcement of the law should be suspended because the plaintiffs are likely to win the case and because it has caused, and
will continue to cause, irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, EFF co-counsel Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine will tell the court at a hearing this week on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Because of the risk of criminal
penalties, the plaintiffs have had their ads removed from Craigslist and censored information on their websites. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation has censored publication of information that could assist sex workers negatively impacted by the law.
FOSTA threatens Woodhull's ability to engage in protected online speech, including livestreaming and live tweeting its August meeting, unless FOSTA is put on hold.
Update: A little reserved
20th July 2018. See
article from avn.com
Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. heard Woodhull's request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from remaining in effect until the group's lawsuit, but did not issue a judgement. Nor did he announce a
date when he would issue a ruling.
According to one account from inside the courtroon, Leon sounded skeptical that the law had actually caused harm to the plaintiffs in the case.
FOSTA internet censorship has blind-sided police in their pursuit of pimps and traffickers
|12th July 2018
article from techdirt.com
Supporters of the US internet censorship law FOSTA were supposedly attempting to target pimps and traffickers, but of course their target was the wider sex work industry. Hence they weren't really interested in the warning that the law would make it
harder to target pimps and sex traffickers as their activity would be driven off radar.
Anyway it seems that the police at least have started to realise that the warning is coming true, but I don't suppose this will bother the politicians much.
Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger right at the shutdown
The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD's vice unit, have just dried up. The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police's best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier
this year. Daggy explained:
We've been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down. I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a
trap for human traffickers and pimps.
With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story. Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There's a ton of
evidence at a crime scene. Now, since [Backpage] has gone down, we're getting late reports of them and we don't have much to go by.
By demonstrating that legitimate businesses are being unconstitutionally censored
|11th July 2018
See article from eff.org CC by
The EFF writes:
We are asking a court to declare the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 ("FOSTA") unconstitutional and prevent it from being enforced. The law was written so poorly that it
actually criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech and, according to experts, actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
In our lawsuit, two human rights organizations, an individual
advocate for sex workers, a certified non-sexual massage therapist, and the Internet Archive, are challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Although the law was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of
fighting sex trafficking, its broad language makes criminals of those who advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex workers and actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
strongly opposed FOSTA
legislative process . During the months-long Congressional debate on the law we expressed our concern that the law violated
free speech rights and would do heavy damage to online freedoms. The law that was
ultimately passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump was actually the
most egregiously bad of those Congress had been considering.
What FOSTA Changed
FOSTA made three major changes to existing law. The first two involved changes to federal criminal law:
First, it created an entirely new federal crime by adding a new section to the Mann Act. The new law makes it a crime to "own, manage or operate" an online service with the intent to "promote or facilitate"
"the prostitution of another person." That crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law further makes it an "aggravated offense," punishable by up to 25 years in prison and also subject to civil lawsuits if
"facilitation" was of the prostitution of 5 or more persons, or if it was done with "reckless disregard" that it "contributed to sex trafficking." An aggravated violation may also be the basis for an individual's civil
lawsuit. The prior version of the Mann Act only made it illegal to physically transport a person across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.
Second, FOSTA expanded existing federal criminal sex trafficking law.
Before SESTA, the law made it a crime to knowingly advertise sexual services of a minor or any person doing so only under force, fraud, or coercion, and also criminalized several other modes of conduct. The specific knowledge requirement for advertising
(that one must know he advertisement was for sex trafficking) was an acknowledgement that advertising was entitled to some First Amendment protection. The prior law additionally made it a crime to financially benefit from "participation in a
venture" of sex trafficking. FOSTA made seemingly a small change to the law: it defined "participation in a venture" extremely broadly to include "assisting, supporting, or facilitating." But this new very broad language has
created great uncertainty about liability for speech other than advertising that someone might interpret as "assisting" or "supporting" sex trafficking, and what level of awareness of sex trafficking the participant must have.
As is obvious, these expansions of the law are fraught with vague and ambiguous terms that have created great uncertainty about what kind of online speech is now illegal. FOSTA does not define "facilitate",
"promote", "contribute to sex trafficking," "assisting," or supporting" -- but the inclusion of all of these terms shows that Congress intended the law to apply expansively. Plaintiffs thus reasonably fear it will be
applied to them. Plaintiffs Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Human Rights Watch advocate for the decriminalization of sex work, both domestically and internationally. It is unclear whether that advocacy is considered "facilitating" prostitution
under FOSTA. Plaintiffs Woodhull and Alex Andrews offer substantial resources online to sex workers, including important health and safety information. This protected speech, and other harm reduction efforts, can also be seen as "facilitating"
prostitution. And although each of the plaintiffs vehemently opposes sex trafficking, Congress's expressed sense in passing the law
was that sex trafficking and sex work were "inextricably linked." Thus, plaintiffs are legitimately concerned that their advocacy on behalf of sex workers will be seen as being done in reckless disregard of some "contribution to sex
trafficking," even though all plaintiffs vehemently oppose sex trafficking.
The third change significantly undercut the protections of one of the Internet's most important laws, 47 U.S.C. § 230, originally a provision of the
Communications Decency Act, commonly known simply as Section 230 or CDA 230:
FOSTA significantly undermined the legal protections intermediaries had under 42 U.S.C. § 230, commonly known simply as Section 230. Section 230 generally immunized intermediaries form liability arising from content created by
others--it was thus the chief protection that allowed Internet platforms for user-generated content to exist without having to review every piece of content appearing posted to them for potential legal liability. FOSTA undercut this immunity in three
significant ways. First, Section 230 already had an exception for violations of federal criminal law, so the expansion of criminal law described above also automatically expanded the Section 230 exception. Second, FOSTA nullified the immunity also for
state criminal lawsuits for violations of state laws that mirror the violations of federal law. And third, FOSTA allows for lawsuits by individual civil litigants.
The possibility of these state criminal and private civil lawsuit is very troublesome. FOSTA vastly magnifies the risk an Internet host bears of being sued. Whereas federal prosecutors typically carefully pick and choose which
violations of law they pursue, the far more numerous state prosecutors may be more prone to less selective prosecutions. And civil litigants often do not carefully consider the legal merits of an action before pursing it in court. Past experience teaches
us that they might file lawsuits merely to intimidate a speaker into silence -- the cost of defending even a meritless lawsuit being quite high. Lastly, whereas with federal criminal prosecutions, the US Department of Justice may offer clarifying
interpretations of a federal criminal law that addresses concerns with a law's ambiguity, those interpretations are not binding on state prosecutors and the millions of potential private litigants.
FOSTA Has Already Censored
As a result of these hugely increased risks of liability, many platforms for online speech have shuttered or restructured. The following as just two examples:
Two days after the Senate passed FOSTA, Craigslist eliminated its Personals section, including non-sexual subcategories such as "Missed Connections" and "Strictly Platonic." Craigslist
attributed this change to FOSTA, explaining "Any tool or service can be misused. We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are
regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day." Craigslist also shut down its Therapeutic Services section and will not permit ads that were previously listed in Therapeutic Services to be re-listed in
other sections, such as Skilled Trade Services or Beauty Services.
VerifyHim formerly maintained various online tools that helped sex workers avoid abusive clients. It described itself as "the biggest dating blacklist
database on earth." One such resource was JUST FOR SAFETY, which had screening tools designed to help sex workers check to see if they might be meeting someone dangerous, create communities of common interest, and talk directly to each other about
safety. Following passage of FOSTA, VerifyHim took down many of these tools, including JUST FOR SAFETY, and explained that it is "working to change the direction of the site."
Plaintiff Eric Koszyk is a certified massage therapist running his own non-sexual massage business as his primary source of income. Prior to FOSTA he advertised his services exclusively in Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section.
That forum is no longer available and he is unable to run his ad anywhere else on the site, thus seriously harming his business. Plaintiff the Internet Archive fears that it can no longer rely on Section 230 to bar liability for content created by third
parties and hosted by the Archive, which comprises the vast majority of material in the Archive's collection, on account of FOSTA's changes to Section 230. The Archive is concerned that some third-party content hosted by the Archive, such as archives of
particular websites, information about books, and the books themselves, could be construed as promoting or facilitating prostitution, or assisting, supporting, or facilitating sex trafficking under FOSTA's expansive terms. Plaintiff Alex Andrews
maintains the website RateThatRescue.org, a sex worker-led, public, free, community effort to share information about both the organizations and services on which sex workers can rely, and those they should avoid. Because the site is largely
user-generated content, Andrews relies on Section 230's protections. She is now concerned that FOSTA now exposes her to potentially ruinous civil and criminal liability. She has also suspended moving forward with an app that would offer harm reduction
materials to sex workers. Human Rights Watch relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media. It is concerned that social media platforms and websites that host, disseminate, or allow users to spread their reports
and advocacy materials may be inhibited from doing so because of FOSTA.
And many many others are experiencing the same uncertainty and fears of prosecution that are plaguing other advocates, service providers, platforms, and
platform users since FOSTA became law.
We have asked the court to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law so that the plaintiffs and others can exercise their First Amendment rights until the court can issue a final ruling.
But there is another urgent reason to halt enforcement of the law. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation is holding its annual Sexual Freedom Summit August 2-, 2018. Like past years, the Summit features a track on sex work, this year titled "Sex as
Work," that seeks to advance and promote the careers, safety, and dignity of individuals engaged in professional sex work. In presenting and promoting the Sexual Freedom Summit, and the Sex Work Track in particular, Woodhull operates and uses
interactive computer services in numerous ways: Woodhull uses online databases and cloud storage services to organize, schedule and plan the Summit; Woodhull exchanges emails with organizers, volunteers, website developers, promoters and presenters
during all phases of the Summit; Woodhull has promoted the titles of all workshops on its Summit website ; Woodhull also publishes the biographies and contact information
for workshop presenters on its website, including those for the sex workers participating in the Sex Work Track and other tracks. Is publishing the name and contact information for a sex worker "facilitating the prostitution of another person"?
If it is, FOSTA makes it a crime.
Moreover, most, if not all, of the workshops are also promoted by Woodhull on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and Woodhull wishes to stream the Sex Work Track on Facebook, as it does
other tracks, so that those who cannot attend can benefit from the information and commentary.
Without an injunction, the legality under FOSTA of all of these practices is uncertain. The preliminary injunction is necessary so that
Woodhull can conduct the Sex as Work track without fear of prosecution.
It is worth emphasizing that Congress was repeatedly warned that it was passing a law that would censor far more speech than was necessary to address the
problem of sex trafficking, and that the law would indeed hinder law enforcement efforts and pose great dangers to sex workers. During the Congressional debate on FOSTA and SESTA, anti-trafficking groups such as
Freedom Network and the
International Women's Health Coalition issued statements warning that the laws would hurt efforts to aid trafficking
victims, not help them.
Even Senator Richard Blumenthal, an original cosponsor of the SESTA (the Senate bill) criticized the new Mann Act provision when it was proposed in the House bill, telling
Wired "there is no good reason to proceed with a proposal that is opposed by the very survivors it claims to
support." Nevertheless, Senator Blumenthal ultimately voted to pass FOSTA.
In support of the
preliminary injunction , we have submitted the declarations of several experts who confirm the
harmful effects FOSTA is having on sex workers, who are being driven back to far more dangerous street-based work as online classified sites disappear, to the loss of online "bad date lists" that informed sex workers of risks associated with
certain clients, to making sex less visible to law enforcement, which can no longer scour and analyze formerly public websites where sex trafficking had been advertised. For more information see the Declarations of
Dr. Alexandra Lutnick ,
Prof. Alexandra Frell Levy , and
Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco .
Moralists seek to end legal brothels in Nevada
|18th May 2018
See article from rgj.com
Anti-sex work campaigners in Nye County in Nevada are attempting to get legal brothels banned. The campaigners have joined with the the moralist campaign group, No Little Girl, and have announced that they have filed for a local referendum about brothels
being banned in the county:
On 17th April 2018, a referendum was filed with the Nye County Clerk by citizens wishing to repeal the county ordinance which allows for legal brothels to operate within the county borders. Nye
County, Nevada is home to five legal brothels, including three owned by self-described pimp and Republican State Assembly candidate, Dennis Hof.
Citizens of Lyon County, Nevada filed an identical referendum earlier this month with
the help of No Little Girl, a campaign funded and administered by End Trafficking and Prostitution Political Action Committee (ETAP, PAC).
Comment: Proposed brothel ban unjust, won't end exploitation'
18th May 2018. Russell Greer a proud disable brothel customer comments:
With a delirious, misplaced drive that rivals the Nazi Blitzkrieg of World War II, a frivolous group known as No Little Girl (NLG) seeks to abolish the Nevada brothels once and for all. And in doing so, everything will be all
heavenly, and these oppressed women will finally be freed from the shackles that hold them back in society and they will be placed into more dignified jobs -- like working at McDonald's.
Ironically, not only does this group lack
any sort of standing to bring this bizarre petition, they harm innocent people with their quest for moral cleansing. Specifically, their petition harms me.
...Read the full
comment from rgj.com
Website hosting service Wix takes down websites related to sex work
|5th May 2018
See article from dailydot.com
In the past few years, web development platform Wix, which lets users build and host their own sites, has become particularly popular with sex workers for its accessibility and customizable options. But recently, models and escorts have said their pages
are being taken down by Wix amid SESTA-FOSTA , the new internet censorship law signed last month by Donald Trump .
\you are not allowed to display content which is in a violation of any applicable laws or requirements in your geographical location. We are obligated to remove such infringing content immediately.
Nichols told the
Daily Dot that she rebranded as a model available for erotic photoshoots after SESTA-FOSTA was passed, listing her time and rates without any further context in hopes that she would slide with Wix. However, the service still terminated her account
regardless, she said.
Freja Noir tweeted:
Woke up this morning to see friends' Wix sites are being deleted with no warning, even people with no explicit content and no mention of anything illegal. If you're on
Wix, make backups of all your content now. They're not playing. Wow, this really makes me so angry.
Nichols said that she's already working on getting her site back up. But she's well aware that SESTA-FOSTA is a looming presence in
her field. She elaborated:
I hired a designer to build me an open-source site with a foreign domain, host, and server, she said. Not that any of that matters if the government wants to get someone badly enough.
|26th April 2018
Many large banks currently refuse accounts for adult industry businesses. The new legislation will allow the Treasury Department to place additional pressure in banks to refuse loans and accounts for adult businesses.
article from avn.com
America's new FOSTA censorship law is proving devastatingly effective as adult consensual sex work related content has already been deleted from the US internet
|22nd April 2018
See article from motherboard.vice.com
SESTA/FOSTA, a bill that president Donald Trump signed into law on April 11 continues to wreak havoc on the lives of sex workers across the United States and abroad.
After getting kicked off of platforms like Craigslist and advertising forums or
pre-emptively limiting their digital footprint on social media platforms like Twitter, thousands of sex workers joined an alternative, decentralized social media platform called Switter, where they hoped to safely connect with and vet safe clients.
But on Wednesday, Assembly Four, the organization that developed Switter, announced that its content delivery network provided by the web-hosting company Cloudflare removed and blocked Switter.
At the time of writing, Switter has nearly 49,000
members and more than 376,500 posts, an explosion of activity since the service was launched in late March.
Trump signs bill to censor websites offering services for sex workers
|12th April 2018
See article from
President Donald Trump has signed the internet censorship FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.
Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed
the bill. Craigslist removed its Personals section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website from the United States.
The bill becoming law will likely lead to more
voluntary site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution.
The SESTA and FOSTA acronyms (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) suggest that the new law is aimed at
cracking down on sex trafficking. But the law barely distinguishes between trafficking and consensual sex work.
Operators of websites that let sex workers interact with clients could face 25 years in prison under the new law.
US Authorities censor backpage.com featuring small ads by sex workers advertising their services
|10th April 2018
See article from bbc.com
The US authorities have taken control of a classified adverts website used by sex workers to advertise their services.
A notice was posted on Backpage.com's various international front pages late last week to inform visitors.
The site had
previously shut down the adult section of its US site, but critics had alleged that prostitution ads had simply moved to other pages.
The authorities claim that some of the adverts were for trafficked sex workers, but such claims are generally
hyped up by those campaigning to prohibit adult consensual sex work and rarely amount to any more than a few cases when properly investigated.
The US media has also reported that Backpage's co-founder Michael Lacey was arrested last week and his
The Californian authorities had previously attempted to close Dallas-based Backpage.com in 2016, when the state prosecuted the business's chief executive and two ex-owners - including Mr Lacey - over claims they had committed pimping
offences and generated millions of dollars by hosting sex trade ads. However, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the US's Communications Decency Act said that publishers should not be held responsible for content created solely by their users.
But last month, Congress passed a new law, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta). It states that websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts should no longer be granted the
It has been reported that President Trump will sign a Senate-approved version of the act into law this week.
US internet censorship of websites related to sex work is hitting hard
|6th April 2018
See article from
The US has passed laws FOSTA/SESTA that make internet websites responsible for any user content related to sex trafficking. Websites can't distinguish sex trafficking from adult consensual sex work information so have respponded in the only way they can
be banning all sex work related content, just in case.
- Cityvibe shut down completely,
- the Erotic Review, the Yelp of the sex trade where men rate their experiences with sex workers, shut down advertisement boards in the United States,
- NightShift shut down to review policies,
- VerifyHim shut down its newsreel,
- Craigslist personals section was shut down,
- Reddit's prostitution-related subreddits were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs,
- Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared
commercial sex-related advertising,
- WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites,
- Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment,
- Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and
USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law,
- Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users
not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.
The sex trafficking sites Cityxguide and Backpage were reportedly seeing a surge in use by sex workers as the other sites shut down.
Perhaps there's an opportunity for European companies to get a look in and offer replacement services to the
US congress passes a supposed anti sex trafficking bill and immediately adult consensual sex workers are censored off the internet
|23rd March 2018
See article from eff.org
It was a dark day for the Internet.
The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to
censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.
The version of FOSTA
that just passed the Senate combined an earlier version of FOSTA (what we call FOSTA 2.0) with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). The history of SESTA/FOSTA -- a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and then was rushed through
votes in both houses of Congress2 -- is a story about Congress' failure to see that its good intentions can result in bad law. It's a story of Congress' failure to listen to the constituents who'd be most affected by the laws it passed. It's also the
story of some players in the tech sector choosing to settle for compromises and half-wins that will put ordinary people in danger. Silencing Internet Users Doesn't Make Us Safer
SESTA/FOSTA undermines Section 230, the most
important law protecting free speech online. Section 230 protects online platforms from liability for some types of speech by their users. Without Section 230, the Internet would look very different. It's likely that many of today's online platforms
would never have formed or received the investment they needed to grow and scale204the risk of litigation would have simply been too high. Similarly, in absence of Section 230 protections, noncommercial platforms like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive
likely wouldn't have been founded given the high level of legal risk involved with hosting third-party content.
The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know that their sites are being used for trafficking.
Importantly, Section 230 does not shield platforms from liability under federal
criminal law. Section 230 also doesn't shield platforms across-the-board from liability under civil law: courts have allowed civil claims against online platforms when a platform directly contributed to unlawful speech. Section 230 strikes a careful
balance between enabling the pursuit of justice and promoting free speech and innovation online: platforms can be held responsible for their own actions, and can still host user-generated content without fear of broad legal liability.
SESTA/FOSTA upends that balance, opening platforms to new criminal and civil liability at the state and federal levels for their users' sex trafficking activities. The platform liability created by new Section 230 carve outs applies
retroactively -- meaning the increased liability applies to trafficking that took place before the law passed. The Department of Justice has raised concerns about this violating the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, at least for the criminal
The bill also expands existing federal criminal law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know
that their sites are being used for trafficking.
Finally, SESTA/FOSTA expands federal prostitution law to cover those who use the Internet to promote or facilitate prostitution. The Internet will become a less inclusive
place, something that hurts all of us.
And if you had glossed over a little at the legal details, perhaps a few examples of the immediate censorship impact of the new law
Immediate Chilling Effect on Adult Content
See article from xbiz.com
SESTA's passage by the U.S. Senate has had an immediate chilling effect on those working in the adult industry.
Today, stories of a fallout are being heard, with adult performers finding their content being flagged and blocked, an
escort site that has suddenly becoming not available, Craigslist shutting down its personals sections and Reddit closing down some of its communities, among other tales.
SESTA, which doesn't differentiate between sex trafficking
and consensual sex work, targets scores of adult sites that consensual sex workers use to advertise their work.
And now, before SESTA reaches President Trump's desk for his guaranteed signature, those sites are scrambling to
prevent themselves from being charged under sex trafficking laws.
It's not surprising that we're seeing an immediate chilling effect on protected speech, industry attorney Lawrence Walters told XBIZ. This was predicted as the
likely impact of the bill, as online intermediaries over-censor content in the attempt to mitigate their own risks. The damage to the First Amendment appears palpable.
Today, longtime city-by-city escort service website, CityVibe.com, completely disappeared, only to be replaced with a message, Sorry, this website is not available.
Tonight, mainstream classified site
Craigslist, which serves more than 20 billion page views per month, said that it has dropped personals listings in the U.S.
Motherboard reported today that at least six porn performers have complained that files have been
blocked without warning from Google's cloud storage service. It seems like all of our videos in Google Drive are getting flagged by some sort of automated system, adult star Lilly Stone told Motherboard. We're not even really getting notified of it, the
only way we really found out was one of our customers told us he couldn't view or download the video we sent him.
Another adult star, Avey Moon was trying to send the winner of her Chaturbate contest his prize -- a video
titled POV Blowjob -- through her Google Drive account, but it wouldn't send.
Reddit made an announcement late yesterday explaining that the site has changed its content policy, forbidding transactions for certain goods and
services that include physical sexual contact. A number of subreddits regularly used to help sex workers have been completedly banned. Those include r/Escorts , r/MaleEscorts and r/SugarDaddy .
Censors at work banning road sign to Nevada brothel
|7th February 2018
See article from
A Nevada brothel owner has filed a 1st Amendment law suit after he was forced to cover up a road sign to the brothel.
Dennis Hof alleges that Nye County officials pressured him into censoring a street sign. An image on the sign near Love Ranch South
depicted stick figures apparently preparing to engage in sexual activity.
The brothel owner covered the image before county officials stripped his license. However he noted in the suit that this censorship is not voluntary:
it is done out of fear of prosecution or other governmental retaliation for the speech. This fear is not merely theoretical, but is the natural result of law enforcement threats, delivered to plaintiffs at the behest of the Nye County
County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen directed that the sign be censored because he did not like the content of the sign and exercised unfettered discretion in seeking to censor the sign's content expression.
Hof, who is seeking unspecified damages, asked a judge to prevent county officials from enforcing censorship of the sign.