The Senate Is Close To Undermining The Internet By Pretending To 'Protect' The Children
from the 230-matters dept
Protecting children from harm is a laudable goal. But, as we’ve noted for many years, grandstanding politicians have a fairly long history of doing a lot of really dangerous stuff by insisting it needs to be done “for the children.” That doesn’t mean that all “for the children” laws are bad, but they do deserve scrutiny, especially when they appear to be reactive to news events, and rushed out with little understanding or discussion. And that’s a big part of our concern with SESTA — the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — a “for the children” bill. With a name like that, it’s difficult to oppose, because we’re all in favor of stopping sex trafficking. But if you actually look at the bill with any understanding of how the internet works, you quickly realize that it will be tremendously counterproductive and would likely do a lot more to harm trafficking victims by making it much more risky for internet services to moderate their own sites, and to cooperate with law enforcement in nabbing sex traffickers using their platforms.
There’s a hearing tomorrow morning about SESTA, and the bill is quickly moving forward, with very few Senators expressing any real concern about the impact it might have on free speech or the internet — despite the fact that a ton of tech companies and free speech advocates have spoken out about their concerns. Instead, over and over again, we’re hearing false claims about how it’s just Google that’s concerned. Last month, we’d put up a page on our Copia site about the bill with a letter to Congress signed by a few dozen tech companies. Today we’re offiically announcing a standalone site, 230Matters.com, that explains why CDA 230 is so important, highlighting the many different parties concerned with the bill, from the ACLU and EFF to tech companies to think tanks and more. The site also hosts the letter that we sent to Congress with our concerns about the bill, put together with the group Engine Advocacy and signed by over 40 companies including Kickstarter, Reddit, Tucows, NVCA, Github, Automattic, Cloudflare, Rackspace, Medium and more.
That’s not “just Backpage” or “just Google”. The letter was signed by internet companies big and small that know just how damaging SESTA will be — not just to their ability to operate online, but to their own efforts to proactively moderate their own sites, or even to work with law enforcement to help stop trafficking online. In other words, this bill is a double whammy: (1) it will greatly harm innovation and free speech online and (2) do so in a way that is likely to make trafficking worse. Unfortunately, supporters of the bill are falsely claiming that being against this bill is the equivalent of supporting sex trafficking. That’s dangerous and leaves no room for actual discussion about why the bill will be so counterproductive.
The letter is still open for more signatures — so if you represent a company that is concerned about this bill, please consider signing on.
With Congress paying attention to SESTA this week, you can expect more posts from us exploring the problems with the bill and with the arguments in its favor. We already had one post earlier today debunking the attacks on EFF and CDT, and more are forthcoming…