Woodhull wins FOSTA Appeal! The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the constitutional challenge be sent back to the district court for a ruling on the merits.
FOSTA is a federal law that was passed on March 21, 2018 and signed into law by President Trump on April 11 entitled H.R.1865 – Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. FOSTA does the following:
- States the explicit congressional intent that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Section 230 was not intended to shield websites that unlawfully promote or facilitate prostitution from legal liability & amends CDA Section 230(e) to add that nothing in this section shall be construed to limit any civil or criminal charges against websites in violation of federal or state law AND
- Amends Chapter 117 of Title 18 USC 2421A to include the crime of promotion or facilitation and reckless disregard of sex trafficking to include interactive computer services (websites). SOAR Institute
What should you care?
Websites can now be sued by civil or criminal law if the content on their site violates this law. Previously, CDA 230 effectually shielded third party sites from being liable for content posted. The practical impact, thus far, has been tremendous self-censoring by websites and individuals to ensure they will not be held liable for content online.The keywords being censored have a much broader reach than just sex work and sex trafficking, restricting access to all sorts of legal sexual material used by professionals and educators.
FOSTA does not take any practical steps towards identifying and intervening in exploitative situations, assisting victims in escaping exploitation, or prosecuting traffickers themselves. In fact, in practice, this law will make identification of victims and exploitative situations that much more difficult (websites utilized will be less traceable/accountable as all of the accountable sites are self-censoring or shutting down).
FOSTA’s language also blurs the lines between people trafficked into sexual labor, and sex workers: This is a problem that is pervasive in human trafficking discourse, and serves to make it very difficult to find trafficked people and is confusing for lawmakers, prosecutors, and law enforcement.
NCSF supports public safety and public health, like efforts to decriminalize sex work supported by health and harm-reduction advocates, rights organizations, LGBTQ-community activists, and social-service providers for victims of violence and abuse. Creating more legal tools to go after online platforms doesn’t punish sex traffickers. It punishes all of us, wrecking the safe online communities that we use every day. And in the process, it also undermines the tools that have proven most effective at putting traffickers in prison