Despite Repeated Evidence That It's Unnecessary And Damaging, Trump Signs SESTA/FOSTA

from the because-of-course dept

This was no surprise, but as everyone expected, yesterday President Trump signed SESTA/FOSTA into law leading to the usual excitement from the bill’s supporters — despite the fact that events of the past couple weeks have proved them all wrong. The bill’s supporters repeatedly insisted that SESTA/FOSTA was necessary to stop one company, Backpage.com, because (they falsely insisted) CDA 230 made the site completely immune. Except, that’s clearly not true. In the two weeks since the bill was approved by Congress, two separate courts declared Backpage not protected by CDA 230 and (more importantly) the DOJ seized the whole damn site and indicted most of the company’s execs — all without SESTA/FOSTA.

And, on top of that, many many sites have already shut down or modified how they do business because of SESTA/FOSTA proving that the bill’s reach clearly is impacting free expression online — just as tons of civil liberties experts warned. And that’s not even touching on the very real concerns of those involved in sex work on how SESTA/FOSTA literally puts their lives in danger — and how it makes it that much more difficult to actually rescue victims of sex trafficking.

As usual, Professor Eric Goldman has a pretty thorough summary of the situation, and notes that there are still a bunch of open questions — including the inevitable constitutional challenges to the bill. The retroactive clause (saying it applies to things that happened prior to the bill being signed) is so obviously unconstitutional that even the Justice Department warned that it would doom the bill if not fixed (which Congress dutifully ignored). But, to me, there’s a bigger question: whether or not a First Amendment challenge could knock out SESTA/FOSTA in the same way that it got most of the original Communications Decency Act tossed out 20 years ago (CDA 230 was all that survived of the original CDA).

I am also curious whether or not we will see any reaction from those who promoted and supported SESTA for the past year or so, when the rates of sex trafficking don’t decrease, but the ability to rescue such victims does decline. Somehow, I get the feeling they’ll have moved on and forgotten all of this. And that’s because, for most of them, “stopping sex trafficking” was a convenient excuse for trying to attack the internet.

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Comments on “Despite Repeated Evidence That It's Unnecessary And Damaging, Trump Signs SESTA/FOSTA”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

News flash….

Anyone with 2 brain cells still on talking terms with each other didn’t want EITHER person to become president. Frankly, it was going to be bad news no matter who was elected. And at least Trump isn’t the “more of the same” that Hillary would have been. And that comment of hers about her email server “being more convenient” is quite true. It was a blatant attempt to avoid FOIA. Frankly, given modern technology, it would be possible and practical for newly elected officials to be issued 24/7 body cams just so that we could have true transparency in office. But I know that’s a pipe dream since the criminals and idiots we keep electing don’t actually want accountability and transparency. But on the flip side, with Trump, we do get a fair amount of transparency because he’s too much of a loud mouthed idiot to actually keep quiet on the things he’s doing.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's a toss up.

Clinton would have been more open to pressure from the public. Her positions could evolve.

Trump on the other hand is motivating people to get louder and to mobilize locally. I only wish he wasn’t doing everything he could to fleece the country in the meantime.

Weighing the choice between a douche and a turd sandwich, I think the damage-to-progress ratio would have been lower with Clinton than it is with Trump, but that’s because Trump is going to great lengths to wreck US institutions, and shows malevolent behavior as much as he does guilty behavior.

Meanwhile we’re going to watch as (metaphorically) Aristocracy tries to evacuate France before the people bust out the guillotines. Hopefully, they’ll be prosecuted in international tribunals where they’re out of reach of local ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tunnel vision

The congresspersons supporting these bills have demonstrated an amazing (even by US congress standards) inability to address any criticisms, or to offer anything other than ideology to justify their passage. For the rest, apparently the desire to appear to be Doing Something, or the fear of voting to _not_ Stop Online Sex Trafficking is enough of a reason to pass a unneeded bill whose ramifications they don’t appear to understand.

Hopefully SESTA/FOSTA will be killed by a constitutional challenge. Even if it does, the complete lack of insight or meaningful debate on the issues of censorship and moderation raised by this law suggests that a lot more bad Internet regulation is on its way.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"... the who now?"

I am also curious whether or not we will see any reaction from those who promoted and supported SESTA for the past year or so, when the rates of sex trafficking don’t decrease, but the ability to rescue such victims does decline.

Given this was never about the victims and always about a disgusting PR stunt, yeah, they won’t give a damn about the fact that the law won’t actually help any of them and will likely completely forget about them(which would be almost impressive given how little they currently care).

At most, if cornered they’ll probably claim that the lack of evidence that the law has helped simply means that it didn’t go far enough, and that even more liability needs to be heaped on to platforms which ‘ought to be doing more!’ More likely they’ll claim that because the problem isn’t as visible then clearly the law is working and it’s not a problem anymore, showing how ‘effective’ the law was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Guilty plea

… the DOJ seized the whole damn site and indicted most of the company’s execs…

Backpage.com, CEO plead guilty to state, US charges”, by Don Thompson, AP, Apr 12, 2018

Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer will serve no more than five years in prison under a California agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

 

(H/T @AnnemarieBridy)

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