Thursday, February 22, 2018

House about to vote on FOSTA with troubling new change to Section 230, as per EFF

Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning that the House will soon vote on the amendment to FOSTA (HR 1865)  weakening Section 230 in relation to sex trafficking.
EFF, in an article today by Elliot Harmon, warns that the House seems to have tightened FOSTA in relation to SESTA, and apparently no longer includes the safeguard that a service provider must “knowingly” be part of trafficking.  EFF calls it a “Frankenstein Monster”.  EFF provides a PDF of the recent changes.

I tried to peruse the House’s latest explanation today, here.  It does look like what happens in Section 230 is that a section 230 defense is no longer available when 2421a (promoting prostitution) or 1591a (promoting trafficking) is involved at the state or federal level.  However, at a very cursory reading both of these laws seem to invoke some prior knowledge of the agent distributing the offending material.

It will take a lot more time to sort this out in the detail necessary.
EFF points out the victims of sex trafficking will be among the people most likely to have their speech censored. 
This topic needs to be followed closely.  The wording is tricky to interpret.  Congress obviously believes that only “bad actor” classified ads websites or services are affected.  It is less clear that the underlying hosting companies would be affected.

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