Saturday, June 22, 2019

"Wired" article shows that Congress wants to expand FOSTA-like legislation to other problems like opioids and deep fakes

Christine Biederman has a detailed article in this month’s “Wired” detailing the history of how the “fibbies” seized Backpage, after a nearly two decade legal battle, right after FOSTA passed in April 2018. The link is here.  This has a free-article paywall (I have a print subscription).  The initial raid in Arizona was quite sudden and broke up a wedding. The title is “Inside’s vicious battle with the Feds”.

Section 230 was used to defeat most attempts to seize it.  At some point, Backpage began to “sanitize” ads to remove keywords and memes so that they would not appear to be supporting sex trafficking. It is arguable that such activity would have canceled their “moderation privilege” (or “good Samaritan clause”) even under Section 230 before FOSTA. It is certainly arguable that such behavior amounts to contributing to the crime intentionally (it is no longer “stochastic”).

The government also used civil asset forfeiture against Backpage to make it harder for it to defend itself legally in terms of financial burden.  Civil asset forfeiture is unusual in free speech cases with digital assets.

The long article warns about another state attorneys-general letter to weaken Section 230 with respect to other crimes, including opioid distribution, identity theft (another blog in my setup), election meddling, and a new problem, deep fakes.

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