On Tuesday, October 3, 2017 the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, held a two-hour hearing on a House bill HR 1865, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. The Senate has a similar bill, SESTA, Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, S1693 . Ann Wagner (R-MO) had a press release in April 2017, with this commentary. Govtrack also offers this provocative editorial.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a blog posting by Elliot Harmon, Sophia Cope, and India McKinney. The actual session starts at about 23 minutes in.
The hearings were chaired by Steve Chabot, R-OH. Jackson Lee (D-TX) gave a long statement.
There were four speakers. All of them recognized that Section 230 had been essential for the growth of user-generated content by relieving service providers of much potential downstream liability that would require prescreening of content before it could be published.
Chris Cox, a former SEC Chairman during Reagan, explained how Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act after a decision (Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy) held that a service provider who tried to do any “good Samaritan” editing of user content became a publisher of the content and liable for all user content from the facility, forcing pre-screening everything. Cox explained that the law should encourage sample monitoring for content that is grossly illegal, without penalizing for content that cannot be caught when providers act in good faith.
Cox would also later explain that right now there is no “knowing” standard for most illegal content (except probably child pornography). A website operator loses section 230 protection only when it participates in creating or curating illegal content.
USA Naval Academy Cybersecurity Professor Jeff Kosseff spoke, relaying similar concerns. He said that with the House bill as proposed now, he would advise clients not to take the risk of inviting user-generated content at all.
Catholic University Columbus School of Law professor Mary Leary testified that the sex trafficking problem had become an emergency, extending beyond very reasonable parallel concerns about promoting terrorism or providing murder for hire. Leary works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Also testifying was Engine executive Evan Engstrom, urging Congress be very cautious.
There was mention of the long running Roommates.com case, where the site was sued for allowing users to post requests discriminating in what sounds like a personal choice of roommates.
There was a suggestion that Sex Trafficking should be handled just like child pornography, where there is a knowing standard.
There was incidental mention of the Las Vegas shootings, with talk of stricture laws on gun add-ons to make them into machine guns. There was also a suggested that any undocumented victims would not be pursued by USCIS.
(Posted: Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 at 1:45 PM EDT)