Beyond ICE In Oakland: How SESTA Threatens To Chill Any Online Discussion About Immigration

from the trafficking-is-in-the-ICE-of-the-beholder dept

First, if you are someone who likes stepped-up ICE immigration enforcement and does not like “sanctuary cities,” you might cheer the implications of this post, but it isn’t otherwise directed at you. It is directed at the center of the political ven diagram of people who both feel the opposite about these immigration policies, and yet who are also championing SESTA. Because this news from Oakland raises the specter of a horrific implication for online speech championing immigrant rights if SESTA passes: the criminal prosecution of the platforms which host that discussion.

Much of the discussion surrounding SESTA is based on some truly horrific tales of sex abuse, crimes that more obviously fall under what the human trafficking statutes are clearly intended to address. But with news that ICE is engaging in a very broad reading of the type of behavior the human trafficking laws might cover and prosecuting anyone that happens to help an immigrant, it’s clear that the type of speech that SESTA will carve out from Section 230’s protection will go far beyond the situations the bill originally contemplated.

Some immigration rights activists are worried that ICE has recently re-defined the crime of human trafficking to include assistance, like housing and employment, that adults provide to juveniles who come to the United States without their parents. In many cases, the adults being investigated and charged are close relatives of the minors who are supposedly being trafficked.

Is ICE simply misreading the trafficking statutes? Perhaps, but it isn’t necessarily a far-fetched reading. People in the EU who’ve merely given rides to Syrian (and other) refugees tired from trekking on foot have been prosecuted for trafficking. Yes that’s Europe, not the US, but it’s an example of how well-intentioned trafficking laws can easily be over-applied to the point that they invite absurd results, including those that end up making immigrants even more vulnerable to traffickers than they would have been without the laws.

So what does that have to do with SESTA? SESTA is drafted with language that presumes that sex trafficking laws are clearly and unequivocally good in their results. And what that Oakland example suggests is that this belief is a myth. Anti-immigrant forces within the government, both federal and state, can easily twist them against the very same people they were ostensibly designed to protect.

And that means they are free to come after the platforms hosting any and all speech related to the assistance of immigrants, if any and all assistance can be considered trafficking. The scope of what they could target is enormous: tweets warning about plain-clothed ICE agents at courthouses, search engine results for articles indicating whether evacuation centers will be checking immigration status, online ads for DACA enrollment assistance, or even discussion about sanctuary cities and the protections they afford generally. If SESTA passes, platforms will either have to presumptively censor all such online speech, or risk prosecution by any government or state entity with different views on immigration policy. Far from being the minor carve-out of Section 230 that SESTA’s supporters insist it is, it instead is an invitation to drive an awful lot of important speech from the Internet that these same supporters would want to ensure we can continue to have.

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Comments on “Beyond ICE In Oakland: How SESTA Threatens To Chill Any Online Discussion About Immigration”

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27 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“In many cases, the adults being investigated and charged are close relatives of the minors who are supposedly being trafficked.”

This is not really any different from throwing family members in jail if they are found helping a family member “avoid” the police.

Sure, It is bull-crap in both cases, but funny how its now a newsworthy thing when it involves illegal immigration. I didn’t see anyone giving a fuck when I got arrested for not ratting my family out to the police.

The rules are simple… break the law or assist someone in breaking the law, you are a criminal too. Hard to figure this out? I thought you guys where the “educated” ones?

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s the very point of being against those proposed laws.

When the laws are so ridiculously broad that the average American commits 3 felonies a day without even realizing it, you have a major problem. The police could throw literally anyone in jail and find something that would stick.

Also…

The rules are simple… break the law or assist someone in breaking the law, you are a criminal too. Hard to figure this out? I thought you guys where the "educated" ones?

… Did you even read the entire article? Specifically this part.

People in the EU who’ve merely given rides to Syrian (and other) refugees tired from trekking on foot have been prosecuted for trafficking. Yes that’s Europe, not the US, but it’s an example of how well-intentioned trafficking laws can easily be over-applied to the point that they invite absurd results, including those that end up making immigrants even more vulnerable to traffickers than they would have been without the laws.

In other words, passing SESTA in the name of stopping human trafficking is like passing a rape prevention bill that will cause more people to be raped. What good is a law that will fail to accomplish it’s stated goal, while causing a slew of unintended side effects?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

When the laws are so ridiculously broad that the average American commits 3 felonies a day without even realizing it

It’s not. Have you actually seen the book in question? The "common" felonies that "everyone does all the time" are actually extremely specific things that aren’t in any way applicable to 99% of people. The entire concept is a ridiculous exaggeration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think it is such a ridiculous exaggeration. I have seen many people goto jail for such stupid things, including those that “technically” do not apply to them. But the police, the judge, and the prosecutor don’t care now do they?

You may be confusing that difference with the number of people committing these ignorant crimes vs those getting caught vs those being actually charged by the inJustice system.

I WISH it were true that what ShadowNinja said was a ridiculous exaggeration! But it’s not. As a citizen you are supposed to KNOW every fucking law on the books, ignorance is NOT a defense. Unless you are rich, a member of the elite, or part of law enforcement.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are multiple sources – many credible – for such claims.

Here in Canada we had a game show for years called “This Is the Law.” Panelists – often including guests from the legal profession – would be shown humorous vignettes alternating with real depictions of actual court cases. And then they had to guess what law was actually being broken.

Sometimes they were told the first law being broken, and they had to guess the second. And sometimes that second law was broken by the arresting officer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“In other words, passing SESTA in the name of stopping human trafficking is like passing a rape prevention bill that will cause more people to be raped. What good is a law that will fail to accomplish it’s stated goal, while causing a slew of unintended side effects?”

I don’t disagree with you there. I did say that it was bull in BOTH cases, but it still does not mute the fact that people are still technically breaking the law. So in the case of family doing it, there should be some consideration, but if family is not involved, perhaps there is a better case for it.

Regarding SESTA, yea, its a piece of shit no doubt.

aerinai says:

I hope it happens... if SESTA passes.

So, I hope that if SESTA passes (I don’t want it to, obviously), that ICE does exactly this. I think with such a broad reading, this would immediately invite lawsuits on First Amendment grounds. At that point it wouldn’t be ‘narrowly tailored’ and the bill will be ruled unconstitutional.

The question would be whether or not I would have standing if I was censored by one of these platforms if they used SESTA as an excuse for censoring…

I agree with your argument that they could do this. I just hope they follow through and try it should that awful law actually be passed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I hope it happens... if SESTA passes.

The question would be whether or not I would have standing if I was censored by one of these platforms if they used SESTA as an excuse for censoring…

Generally, no, on the basis that they were not compelled as a matter of law to censor you. Rather, their lawyers convinced the decision maker(s) that, as a matter of corporate self-preservation, the corporation should speculatively censor you rather than wait to see if the government would make an issue of it. If they deferred censoring you until the government at least began the process of enforcing the law, then you might have a case – but with the penalties in question, no rational decision maker will risk provoking the government just to test this.

btr1701 (profile) says:

1st Amendment

> it’s clear that the type of speech that SESTA will carve
> out from Section 230’s protection will go far beyond the
> situations the bill originally contemplated. Platforms
> will either have to presumptively censor all such online
> speech, or risk prosecution by any government or state
> entity with different views on immigration policy.

Just because it’s carved out of 230 doesn’t mean it’s carved out of the 1st Amendment. Any prosecution for merely discussing sanctuary cities or being pro-illegal immigrant would clearly violate about 200+ years of 1st Amendment jurisprudence and would fail miserably. It’s not even a close call. So the “But censorship!” hand-wringing is a bit premature and overblown.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 1st Amendment

News flash… you don’t have free speech. Go and say something the government has said you are not allowed to say, especially something from a classified document.

We have already destroyed the entire Constitution, not a single fucking sentence of it is being followed, all we are watching now is its slow but inevitable death.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 1st Amendment

Let’s be realistic here. Things have changed.

The Pentagon Papers trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct against Daniel Ellsberg, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court. Today the government actions that got the case thrown out of court are legal.

For the two years Ellsberg was under indictment he was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. Today Snowden would not be allowed out on bail. He would be in a prison cell, incommunicado, in total isolation conditions like Chelsea Manning was.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 1st Amendment

Today the government actions that got the case thrown out of court are legal.

Oh it’s even worse than that, with the courts these days there would be very good odds that even if the actions in question weren’t legal the government would still get a pass on ‘National Security’ and/or ‘Good faith exception’ claims.

"Your Honor, though our agents were ultimately mistaken in their view of what the law allows, at the time they conducted the surveillance they fully believed that they were acting within the law."

Invoke the magical words ‘National Security’ and I’d give such an argument a very good chance of working(hell, just look at the Playpen cases where that argument has worked multiple times).

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 1st Amendment

And if that doesn’t work, the government can simply pass a law granting it and any telecommunications companies that cooperated retroactive immunity. As it did in the Room 641A case.

Of course, the government can simply refuse to prosecute any spying when it’s unveiled. Lawsuits against the government can be dismissed because those bringing the lawsuits "don’t have standing." The head of the agency responsible can lie to Congress about it, knowing that Congress won’t act when that lie is caught.

Anonymous Coward says:

"any and all assistance [to criminals] can be considered trafficking" -- FINE!

This DODGE of sending minors in as way around the LEGAL limits to get a foothold here for entire families must end. It’s taking advantage — YET AGAIN — of American goodwill and generosity to implement a globalist agenda of breaking the USA into small warring groups.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "any and all assistance [to criminals] can be considered trafficking" -- FINE!

Persons of any kind or condition don’t have ANY right to even cross the border. Our civil servants check all they can at the border so closely as can, and then they’re given permission to enter. Period. No sane country does otherwise.

ANYONE who knowingly aids and abets — especially hires (at less than industry or even minimum wage) — a person who’s entered illegally SHOULD BE JAILED. — Especially the officers of corporations. We The People haven’t given them license to undermine the country for their own economic gain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "any and all assistance [to criminals] can be considered trafficking" -- FINE!

ICE will have to go MUCH further than what you worry about before a majority of citizens are concerned. It’s certainly FINE with me if "chills" advocates for criminals. — Like you, evidently.

YOU are clearly for unlimited immigration to USA and EU. YOU clearly believe that USA has NO right to control our borders. YOU ARE WRONG. UP THE WALL, I SAY! Start a bounty for turning in these illegals. America has SIXTY MILLION immigrants now, and some few of them even came in legally.


Again, there’s a length limit at least from TOR that leads to my multiple comments! BLAME MASNICK.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "any and all assistance [to criminals] can be considered trafficking" -- FINE!

Dear AC, in case you have never been to school let me tell you that America doesn’t have 60 million immigrants, it has 320 million, because you’re just as much of an immigrant as those guys, you just arrived a wee bit earlier around here

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "any and all assistance [to criminals] can be considered trafficking" -- FINE!

Give out_of_the_blue some time to grieve. He misses Hamilton dearly and is trying to emulate Hamilton’s example in lunacy. Won’t someone think of the poor TOR exit nodes that are now left with a void unfilled by their anti-Masnick romance?

MyNameHere (profile) says:

“The scope of what they could target is enormous: tweets warning about plain-clothed ICE agents at courthouses, search engine results for articles indicating whether evacuation centers will be checking immigration status, online ads for DACA enrollment assistance, or even discussion about sanctuary cities and the protections they afford generally.”

Let’s be fair here, it’s all discussions about breaking the law in one form or another. These children are with people who are not their legal guardians, and they could be in peril.

They are paranoid because they know they are breaking the law. It’s incredibly sad that they are in this sort of postition, but really blame Obama for DACA, which has lead to people literally pushing their children over the wall into the US illegally knowing they will be “safe”.

Oops, kind heared liberal concept leads to pain. Who would have thought it?

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