From this blog, we’d like to express our full support for the ‘Stop SESTA’ initiative. If you are in the U.S., this particularly concerns you.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) is a bill in Congress that, if passes, will weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The bill pursues

to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to clarify that Section 230 does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services of Federal and State criminal and civil law relating to sex trafficking.

What that means in practice? That the States could be able to remove de facto the existing liability exceptions (safe harbours) of intermediary service providers such us Wikipedia, Youtube or Snapchat, curtailing free-speech and creating chilling effects.

How? By creating new legislation under the SESTA umbrella. Currently, Section 230 CDA protects these providers against being held legally responsible for any content created by others (user-generated content). However, under SESTA, new provisions could be enacted imposing, for instance, content monitoring obligations: E.g. by establishing that intermediary services’ due diligence to avoid being held responsible on sex trafficking-related cases consists in “screening and moderating all the content uploaded to their platforms”, as Eric Goldman similarly (and more clearly) explains in his blog. Something very similar to what it looks like is the future of China’s WeeChat legal regime where, among other things, the owner of the chat group will “bear responsibility for the management of the group”. Also, in that scenario, a ruling in favour of Techdirt like yesterday’s one might not take place.

For these reasons, from Democratize Law we want to thank all the members of the initiative’s coalition in this fight: EFF, Access Now, Defending Rights & Dissent, Fight for the Future, FIRE, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Internet Archive, Open Media, Restore the Fourth, Roots Action, Rstreet, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, X Lab.

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