FOSTA/SESTA Passed Thanks To Facebook's Vocal Support; New Article Suggests Facebook Is Violating FOSTA/SESTA

from the self-own dept

One of the main reasons FOSTA/SESTA is now law is because of Facebook's vocal support for the bill. Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly spoke out in favor of the bill, misrepresenting what the bill actually did. In our own post-mortem on what happened with FOSTA/SESTA we noted that a big part of the problem was that many people inside Facebook (incredibly) did not appear to understand how CDA 230 works, and thus misunderstood how FOSTA/SESTA would create all sorts of problems. Last month, we noted that there was some evidence to suggest that Facebook itself was violating the law it supported.

However, a new article from Buzzfeed presents even more evidence of just how much liability Facebook may have put on itself in supporting the law. The article is fairly incredible, talking about how Facebook has allowed a group on its site that helps landlords seek out gay sex in exchange for housing -- and the report is chilling in how far it goes. In some cases, it certainly appears to reach the level of sex trafficking, where those desperate for housing basically become sex slaves to their landlords.

Today, in the first instalment of this series, we uncover some of the damage done to these young men – the sexual violence – by landlords, and reveal how they are being enabled by two major internet companies, one of which is Facebook. The world’s largest social media platform, BuzzFeed News can reveal, is hosting explicit posts from landlords promising housing in return for gay sex.

In multiple interviews with the men exchanging sex for rent and groups trying to deal with the crisis, BuzzFeed News also uncovered a spectrum of experiences that goes far beyond what has so far been documented, with social media, hook-up apps, and chemsex parties facilitating everything.

At best, impoverished young men are seeking refuge in places where they are at risk of sexual exploitation. At worst, teenagers are being kept in domestic prisons where all personal boundaries are breached, where their lives are in danger.

I've seen multiple people point out -- accurately -- that the article's focus on Facebook here is a little silly. The real focus should be on the "landlords" who are seeking out and taking advantage of desperate young men in need of a place to live. But, given that the focus is on Facebook, it certainly appears that Facebook has the knowledge required to be a violation of FOSTA/SESTA:

Despite the explicit nature of the postings on the group’s site, the administrator told BuzzFeed News that Facebook has not intervened. “We have never had an incident from Facebook,” he said. “If they [members] want to post something that will not fly with Facebook I write them, and tell them what needs to be changed.”

This has not stopped explicit notices being posted.

When approached by BuzzFeed News to respond to issues relating to this group, Facebook initially replied promising that a representative would comment. That response, however, did not materialise, despite several attempts by BuzzFeed News, over several days, to invite Facebook to do so. A week after first contacting the social media company, the group remains on its site.

It still seems wrong to blame Facebook for what the horrific landlords are doing here, but, hey, FOSTA/SESTA is now the law, and it's the law thanks in large part to Facebook's strong support for it. So, given all of this, will Facebook now face legal action, either from the victims of this group or from law enforcement?


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Apr 2018 @ 12:07pm

    The law, that they whole heartily supported, says they are at fault. Let the billions flow.

    How screwed up is the world when we are in a place that to get a 'safe' place people are willing to exchange sex for shelter?

    I have no problem with Sex Workers, they know full well what they are doing, this is desperate people doing it to survive & being pushed to do more or be put out.

    I do enjoy that Buzzfeed has a note of the time they made FB aware so that the penalties can be compounded from that date. You idiots made the bed hoping it would screw the little guys, enjoy your own personal hell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 20 Apr 2018 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      "this is desperate people doing it to survive & being pushed to do more or be put out"

      A portion of them is. Not all of them. This is a misconception that has to die because it's based on the notion that it's some sort of dirty, immoral type of labor. It is not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2018 @ 7:12pm

      Re:

      How screwed up is the world when we are in a place that to get a 'safe' place people are willing to exchange sex for shelter?

      Why should we view sex as sacrosant? People can have that opinion, but it's just an opinion. People routinely spend 40-80 hours a week doing things they don't really want to do, often desparate people doing it to survive. ("When building Tesla’s other cars, former workers said they had to sacrifice their bodies to save time.")

      If someone decides they'd rather fuck a guy for a few hours a week—if it's not one of those cases with rape, beating, AIDS &c.—who am I to judge?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 20 Apr 2018 @ 12:17pm

    Thanks!

    Fantastic writeup. This is EXACTLY where TechDirt wins in providing topical and heavy-hitting deep analysis.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 20 Apr 2018 @ 12:28pm

    "I've seen multiple people point out -- accurately -- that the article's focus on Facebook here is a little silly."

    I disagree. These awful laws were designed precisely to go after the platforms, not to solve the real problem. We should be finding every single minor breach Facebook and friends may be incurring and make their judicial lives as expensive and hellish as possible while the law isn't stricken down due to the unconstitutional parts of it. As a deterrent for future shenanigans from dominant players who think they can handle the damage and curb competition this way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2018 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      "As a deterrent for future shenanigans"

      ha ha hahaa.....!!!!

      "Eternal Vigilance"

      NOTHING serves as a deterrent to the future... currently yes, but future? Not a single chance!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        discordian_eris (profile), 21 Apr 2018 @ 10:46am

        Re: Re:

        The deterrent is simple. Post sex ads on every congress critters FB, their websites, anywhere they have a presence. Then refer for prosecution and start the popcorn popper.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2018 @ 1:02pm

          'The law is for those that don't write it'

          May I present 'Selective enforcement', or 'prosecutional discretion'?

          No prosecutor would go after a congresscritter for such actions, which is one of the reasons they felt so safe in passing it, because they know that they will never face any personal consequences from it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2018 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      Let Facebook be the one to prove this law is unconstitutional. They made their bed and now have to sleep in it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2018 @ 1:08pm

    The same politicians who voted in FOSTA/SESTA/MEXICANFIESTA probably think Facebook isn't actually a website but rather a utility (or something dumb). As such most involved agencies will probably treat Facebook as some sort of magical exception.

    Come to think of it they'll probably do after the admins of any involved group/page instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2018 @ 6:18am

    Oh NOW you want to quibbled about the 'knowledge' standard?

    “If they [members] want to post something that will not fly with Facebook I write them, and tell them what needs to be changed.”

    If memory serves Backpage was dragged through the coals for almost exactly this, where someone would submit something that violated the site rules and the system would deny it and suggest alternatives. This was used against the site as 'evidence' that they were promoting illegal activity by 'helping' people to dodge around filters.

    Given what a huge supporter of the bill Facebook was, it seems someone(several someone's in fact) with a badge might want to look into the site's blatantly hypocritical and now illegal actions here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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