US bill to hold websites liable for sex trafficking set for vote

A bill that could reach the House of Representatives as early as Tuesday aims to make it easier to bring to criminal charges against websites that knowingly facilitate or promote sex trafficking.

Published: 27th February 2018 01:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2018 01:26 PM   |  A+A-

By AFP

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers are preparing to vote this week on legislation holding website owners liable for human trafficking, amid criticism from civil liberties activists that it could undermine free speech on the internet.

A bill that could reach the House of Representatives as early as Tuesday aims to make it easier to bring to criminal charges against websites that knowingly facilitate or promote sex trafficking.

The measure seeks to reconcile separate legislative efforts in the House and Senate and is aimed at websites such as Backpage, which has been accused of facilitating sexual exploitation.

The bill "will significantly help prosecutors crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking, while providing much needed recourse for the thousands of men, women, and children who are victims of this evil industry," said Representative Mimi Walters, a California Republican and sponsor of an amendment to resolve differences in the House and Senate bills.

But critics of the measure say the legislation would undermine a basic underpinning of the internet, which enables websites to host information from third parties without liability.

Emma Llanso of the Center for Democracy & Technology said the bill "would create a confusing mashup of overlapping forms of federal and state criminal and civil liability for internet intermediaries" and result in online censorship of legal content.

"This bill jeopardizes not only classified ads sites but also dating apps, discussion forums, social media sites, and any other service that hosts user-generated content," Llanso said.

Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, said if the bill becomes law it could encourage website operators to censor any potentially risky content or take a hands-off approach to show they did not "knowingly" facilitate human trafficking.

"The 'moderator's dilemma' is bad news because it encourages internet companies to dial down their content moderation efforts, potentially increasing the quantity of 'bad' content online -- including, counterproductively, the quantity of now- unmoderated sex trafficking promotions," Goldman said in a blog post.

Last year, major internet firms agreed to support a measure on online liability after reaching a compromise with legislative sponsors.

The latest bill, dubbed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), was set for a committee vote Monday, which could set up a vote of the full House on Tuesday.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp