Senators Defend Bill to Fight Online Trafficking Content
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Senators Defend Bill to Fight Online Trafficking Content

During Senate floor remarks late this afternoon about the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) (HR 1865), which is expected to be voted on tomorrow, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), the sponsor of the Senate version that is incorporated into HR 1865, said that despite concerns of critics who say the bill will undercut the Communications Decency Act’s protections for online intermediaries, the bill would make only “two narrowly focused changes,” removing “the CDA immunity for websites that knowingly violate federal sex trafficking law,” and adding “House provisions to create new federal crimes for facilitating sex trafficking online.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), co-sponsor of the Senate version, also spoke today in support of the bill, saying he wanted to “correct misunderstandings.” Contrary to those who “have argued it will punish so-called good Samaritans,” he said, the bill “specifically preserves section 230(c)(2)(A) — the good Samaritan provision [of the CDA].”

SESTA is also technologically neutral, Sen. Blumenthal said. “And that is why the Internet Association and its members support this bill. I understand that an amendment will be offered to restate SESTA’s good Samaritan provision. It would be unnecessary and confuse the courts. … And it would derail the bill by sending it back to the House. … This amendment would also protect websites that act in bad faith,” Sen. Blumenthal said.

He also opposed a prospective amendment that would provide additional money to the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute online sex trafficking, a proposal he said he supports, “but this bill is not the means to do it.” —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterksluwer.com

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