SESTA, FOSTA, And How To Make Sense Of The Acronym Soup

from the You-say-potato,-I-say-we-should-have-called-the-whole-thing-off dept

Here at Techdirt we’ve been slow to switch: so dug in were we for so long against the legislative scourge known as SESTA that we’ve been reluctant to call it anything else. Even after its ghastly provisions became law ? in some ways, because its ghastly provisions became law ? we’ve been reluctant to change what we called this vehicle of censoring doom. After all, we said for months that SESTA would be awful, and now here it is, being awful. If we called it something else people might be confused about what we had been complaining about.

The problem is, it’s not technically correct to continue to call this legislative outrage SESTA, and doing so threatens to create its own confusion. SESTA didn’t become law; FOSTA did. When we react to those legislative changes, and cite to their source, we are citing to the bill called FOSTA, not the bill called SESTA. SESTA itself no longer exists in legislative form ? FOSTA’s enactment mooted it ? and it’s confusing to complain about a law that isn’t actually one, or ever going to be one, because even if you can convince someone that it’s terrible, they’ll never be able to find in any law book what it is they should be upset about.

It’s FOSTA that now haunts us from the U.S. Code. But what’s confusing is that while FOSTA is the enacted legislation now hurting us, SESTA was the proposed bill we had warned would. All the legislative history is with SESTA (well, most of it anyway), but all the legislative power is with FOSTA.

So what happened? What’s up with the two names? Why the shift? Basically this:

SESTA was a terrible bill proposing to gut Section 230 that had been rumbling around the Senate for a while. There were some hearings and proposed amendments, but by and large it remained a bill full of terrible, Internet-ruining proposals. Eventually, when it looked like it might be picking up enough steam to pass, an alternate bill got floated in the House: FOSTA. It still played SESTA’s game, but it did so with different language that presumably would have resulted in something less Internet-ruining.

For what it’s worth, not everyone thought this was a great strategy. Some thought that it would be better to do nothing but try to nip the whole idea behind SESTA in the bud, but others thought it might be better to go with a “devil you know” strategy if passage of something seemed inevitable, because then hopefully it could at least be something a little less awful.

FOSTA was still pretty bad, although it had some hearings and amendments to try to make it less so. But then, all of a sudden, the legislative sausage-making machine went berserk and spit out something even worse. The result was a Frankenstein monster of a bill, still called FOSTA, which combined the worst of its own proposals with the worst of the SESTA bill percolating in the Senate. This new FOSTA bill soon passed the House, and shortly thereafter it’s the bill that passed the Senate. Notably it was not the original SESTA bill that the Senate voted on, because if the Senate had tried to pass anything different from what the House had passed the reconciliation process between the two bills might have delayed the ultimate passage of either. Perhaps that delay would have spared us this horror, but such a fate was not something the law’s Internet-undermining champions wanted to risk.

So here we are, stuck with this garbage on the books, legislation so awful it can’t even be labeled coherently. But giving name to something always makes it easier to fight. So from here on out, we’ll be calling it FOSTA.

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Comments on “SESTA, FOSTA, And How To Make Sense Of The Acronym Soup”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Houdini Effect

While Harry Houdini was more renowned for his escapes, he did practice slight of hand. This practice of slight of hand within our legislative bodies is more reprehensible than that of a magician where we expect to be deceived. Our legislatures should not be deceiving us, they should be straight forward and upright and representing our interests, not those of large contributors or lobbyists.

Or were they about trying to deceive themselves? One faction vs another faction?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Houdini Effect

While the term ‘political science’ did not appear in my comment anywhere, it might apply, at least in terms of how certain administrations think about science. Not in terms of what we might learn from scientific study, but in terms of what results they want, and how current scientific thinking either applies, or does not apply to achieving the end result they want.

The results they want are more important than provable scientific assertions. To them, the results are either proven by science, or the science is worthless. That they have no proof that the science is worthless when they can order department heads to speak the speak or get lost has a tendency to taint the discussion.

Science will still rule, but only to those who aren’t constrained by their political appointments, or government funding. Which has a tendency to change governmental rules not at all, unless the rules cause the rich to get richer regardless how those actions effect the rest of us.

Now the question of ‘political science’ seems to be a bit of a joke, as trying to get scientific about, say legislatures, and their behavior given the current campaign funding schema certainly requires a certain amount of guesswork. Something science accepts, but only if it is in the process of getting to some provable answer not as a result, but as a stepping stone to a possible result. When the legislature is elected to represent their constituents, but then represent their major contributors, the sciency part become a bit obscure.

(I should say that my father was a political science major in college and worked in journalism for many years, including the political beat, but back then, it actually had some meaning, and some veracity.)

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Calling a turd a turd

While I agree…God I hate acronyms, or more accurately initials that are supposed to mean…something.

I could argue that I am too old to learn something new, but that is not actually correct. I could also argue that what the generation or two generations (or maybe three) behind me expect the rest of us to conform to ‘what they want’ and while the rest of us could choose not to, we tend to. That does not mean that acceptance of change for the sake of change is a good thing. Do these changes make things better? Not likely. Do these things make things simpler, not unless your texting and are concerned with your data usage. Should texting rules rule life, or the rest of humanities communications rules? Should style books be updated daily, weekly, monthly, annually? Then what is the responsibility of the rest of humanity to keep up?

I have other things to do than keep up with the abrogations of younger generations communication idiosyncrasies.

This is not to say that you should not bend to the will of the newest generations and conform to their methods of communication. At some point, one needs to communicate with them. On the other hand, there is no reason for them to not understand what we have to say just because they decide that we are old fogies and therefore have nothing to pass on. If they wish to move forward, they had better understand their own, meaning our, past, or they are just moving, and not necessarily forward.

To the point, making up new initial representations of sayings does not help in the cause of communication (though thank you for spelling it out at the end). Be clear and try to be concise (I sometimes have trouble there). Tell us what you think and why you think it. Back it up with references where appropriate.

In the end, yes FOSTA, or it’s predecessor SESTA, are in fact TURDS.

ECA (profile) says:


HOW many of these are popping up??

Interesting that you cant CLICK on anything on the main page..

There are ALLOT better solutions THAN THIS..
THIS is after the fact, and on the radio, I heard some REALLY weird thoughts on what this is about and WILL stop..
It was on Public radio system.

Anonymous Coward says:

I read the whole story

And felt a little hungry at the end. What is so bad about the bill? It was very thin soup.

You do seem expressive, however, I wonder if you would allow me to pose a question to you. I have this theory about the Democratic Party, maybe you could give me your opinion about whether we have any common view.

My family has a multi-generational military background, dating back to (at least) the Revolutionary War and up until the Vietnam War. Every generation back at least 250 years has either served in the military or had a parent who served in the military. So, I was taught to love America, even at risk to my own life. I take the Pledge of Allegiance seriously, and see myself as an American Patriot that loves America. I would literally murder those who would try to take my American Rights, and I would feel a bond with all those who murdered before me.

When I read this forum, I understand there are a lot of other views about America and American history. For example, I recall when Michelle Obama publicly stated it was the “first time” she loved America. I don’t know her background, but I take her at her word. I wonder if it isn’t true that for her and her culture, they have hated America for generations, the same way my family has loved America for generations. She was “proud” to destroy America because of her multi-generational and cultural hatred.

This has now become this mission of the Democratic Party. To engender and attract as much visceral hatred of America as possible from as many people as possible. We have an ideological war between Proud Americans of the past and those who want to punish them for perceived slights of previous generations. Obama did a lot of punishing, and he seemed to enjoy it. I recall him joking about sending white people to the back of the bus. He thought it was funny.

What do you think, do you see the ideological landscape in a similar fashion? You are an expressive lady, I would be interested in your opinion. Is this a Love/America Hate/America war? When I see football players kneeling, I see them saying they hate America. When I see Trump’s severed head (the elected POTUS) I see they hate America. When I see Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Aliens, I see they hate America and Americans. When I see ANTI-FA at college campuses now allowing people to speak, I see they hate America and American Values.

Has the Democratic Party become the Hate America party?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I read the whole story

Forget about my family history, I am just making a point (and telling the truth). Has the Democratic Party become the Hate America party? Is this the constituency it is trying to build? Take Techdirt for example – most of the topics and posts here are about Hating America. Hating Copyright and Patents (American Constitution) Hating Police, Hating historical statues, hating the Founding Fathers because they had slaves, it goes on and on. Read the posts. This is the Hate America Haven, right? Tell me I’m wrong. Someone stand up and say they Love America, American History and American Values. What’s that? Crickets?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I read the whole story

No, nothing more personal about me. Tell me something, tell me your opinion, please. IMHO, the joke about likening Michell Obama to a gorilla with lipstick and high heels was funny. And I am not a racist, I just think it is a funny image. Funny like laugh out loud. I mean even if she was white, her big ass could be mistaken for a gorilla’s ass. What do you think? Have I crossed a Red Line, or am I allowed Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Laugh at Things I See as Funny? Real question.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I read the whole story

You would like to know what I think is funny?

The fact that Shiva, who spent an Ars Technica interview screaming about how important the definition of email was, and then being handed a judge’s decision that the definition of email and who created it cannot be properly defined.

Now that’s funny. But you’re going to follow it up with something personal to yourself, Hamilton, because you’re that predictable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I read the whole story

Hey, where is that really smart and convincing fellow who argued that the judge made a mistake in Mike’s case (right here on Techdirt)? He said it better than I could. Something about separating fact from opinion, like, calling someone a fraud and a liar is a statement of fact that has specific meaning to the ordinary reader. What was his name again? Chris maybe? Joe the Plumber? (that doens’t Sound right) A bright fellow, maybe an attorney. Very smart. This issue is definitively going to get attention in the appeals court. Watch and see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 I read the whole story

And now you’re down to replying to yourself. Not only that, but now you’re down to spoofing your IP address to make it look like separate people, except for the usage of single paragraphs, the vocabulary, and the simpering, patting yourself on the back being completely identical.

I think that might be a record, Hamilton!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I read the whole story

You see, Shiva is a Legal Immigrant. That gives him all the rights and responsibilities of every other American. He is a Real American, no doubt. Senator, I think. Well, he’s going to be a Senator, that’s what I heard. But real, yes, totally real. Did you see that fellow that hit him in the Megaphone? Wow, that was nasty. I hope that fellow got some jail time. There is no place in polite society for those who would use violence to silence others. None at all. Or Censorship, really. No one of any consequence would socialize with all you jerkoffs that accept censorship, for example. Except me, I think you’re fun, in a perverse kind of way. I especially enjoy it when words upset you and you need a safe space where the words “dissapear” and don’t upset you anymore. Great fun, really.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I read the whole story

Hating on the IMPLEMENTATION of Copyrights in the current environment (Life + 70 years… really?) is NOT hating on the Constitution (To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for LIMITED TIMES to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.)

The constitution says NOTHING about giving CORPORATIONS rights to creative works for Life + 70 years (which many Corps can extend if needed by ‘remastering’ the original).

If you truly supported Americans (not Corporations) you would agree that Copyright and Patents. If you really feel that Life + 70 years is a limited time, then I would like you to loan me $1 Million dollars, that I will pay back in a limited time… or as Wimpy would say ,”I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” (fair use…)

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I read the whole story

“The constitution says NOTHING about giving CORPORATIONS rights to creative works for Life + 70 years (which many Corps can extend if needed by ‘remastering’ the original).”

Iv said the same before, and Few ever pay attention.
Its like creating the wheel, with 2 lugs, 4 lugs, 5 lugs and each gets its Own CR..
Then someone makes 1 Lug(yes they so) and CR that..

WHO wants it forever??
Corps..Music, Movie, and software..
Which is abit strange, as Much of it changes so fast that Software is obsolete in a few years and the movie industry creates a NEW version(which is Different enough to create another CR)(and stolen from another author and ADAPTED(changed) enough to be another CR)

Have ANY of the original creators ASKED for this to be extended to cover 3-5 generations of their family??

A. Mazing-Notion says:

So YOU'VE decided what to call it.

A)You and Techdirt don’t matter, now that

B) it’s law and in effect.

C) This is the wackiest, most irrelevant piece ever at Techdirt. Just now deciding to call it “FOSTA”, eh? Whew.

This was one where I didn’t bother to control direction of the comment, just to look at all the off-topic nuttiness that popped out.

It’s a good lesson for anyone new here: dull topic followed unrelated comments is typical of the site. They’re SO off-the-wall that I incline to conclude that they’re AI bots, just unaware. They have keywords to repeat like “Shiva Ayyadurai” and then just random associate.

By the way, to see all comments without clicking, try the “lite” format.

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