Internet Law

Trump gets bill eliminating immunity for websites posting outside sex-trafficking content

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President Donald Trump is expected to sign a bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday that eliminates immunity for websites hosting third-party content that facilitates prostitution.

The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields websites that host third-party content, report, Ars Technica, the Washington Post, Gizmodo and Slate. It passed the Senate on a 97-2 vote.

The bill allows civil sex-trafficking claims when websites promote or facilitate prostitution. It also creates a new federal offense that prohibits the use of websites with the intent to promote or facilitate prostitution, according to analyses by the U.S. Justice Department and the Recorder. The bill also amends another section of federal anti-trafficking law to ban “knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating” sex trafficking. State prosecutions would also be authorized.

Violators could be fined or sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, according to Ars Technica.

The bill has been referred to as FOSTA/SESTA because it combines bills known as Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.

The bill followed decisions by federal appeals courts in Chicago and Boston that said sex-trafficking victims could not sue because of the Communications Decency Act.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has argued the bill is so broadly written that it could be used against owners of online platforms who don’t know their sites are being used for sex trafficking. The foundation also expressed concern because the law allows criminal liability for trafficking that took place before the law passed.

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