A pair of bills intended to crack down on websites complicit in sex work and trafficking have landed on President Donald Trump’s desk after passing the Senate on March 21.
The bills are known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). They are designed to close a loophole in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides a legal shield for websites against content their users post.
According to Section 230, internet service providers and websites that publish third-party content are protected against other laws that might hold them accountable for their users’ speech. The section ensures open channels for the free exchange of information and discourse, allowing activities as benign as online product reviews and sites such as Wikipedia.
FOSTA and SESTA amend Section 230 to hold websites liable for the “promotion or facilitation of prostitution” or facilitating “traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”