Major tech industry group drops opposition to sex trafficking bill

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A major technology industry team reversed system and explained it is going to support a monthly bill created to enable it to be easier to sue websites that help intercourse trafficking online. The invoice has actually been a resource of pressure involving the technology industry and Washington for months. The compromise comes just days right after tech giants faced a hostile Congress in hearings inspecting their responsibility for Russian-bought propaganda ads on their web sites.

The Internet Affiliation, which counts Google, Facebook, Twitter and some others amid its associates, mentioned Friday that it now supports the Prevent Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) monthly bill – after a compromise that addresses fears the bill would make Internet companies more susceptible to litigation.

“Important modifications made to SESTA will grant victims the opportunity to secure the justice they should have, allow internet platforms to carry on their work combating human trafficking, and protect good actors during the ecosystem,” Internet Affiliation President & CEO Michael Beckerman mentioned in a statement.

(Amazon is a member of the Internet Association. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The bill would amend a key section of the Communications Decency Act, which insulates technology platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from being held liable for what their users post or say on their web sites. But the bill’s co-authors, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have mentioned which the current law makes it too easy for websites to facilitate sex trafficking of children and adults through ads and other posts without fear of repercussion. Executives from the classifieds site Backpage were called to testify before Congress in January to examine its role in underage sex trafficking.

“Removing the unwarranted shield from legal duty will save countless children from horrific tragedy, both physical and emotional,” Blumenthal said in a statement, praising Friday’s compromise.

The modifications include clarification that only companies that “knowingly” assist, support or facilitate sex trafficking may be held liable, the bill’s sponsors reported. It also makes clear that criminal charges are based on federal human trafficking laws. Finally, it also permits state attorneys general to file civil suits on behalf of their residents against those who violate the federal human trafficking law in federal court.

Removing technology industry opposition clears a major obstacle for the legislation. “I’m pleased we’ve reached an agreement to further clarify the intent of the monthly bill and advance this important legislation,” Portman claimed in a statement.

Still, not all technology firms are on board. Engine, a trade team for startups, still opposes the monthly bill because it remains unclear and “potentially penalizes startups for content” out of their control. “Platforms will likely be discouraged from taking steps to proactively fight trafficking for fear of exposing themselves to criminal charges and meritless civil litigation,” Engine’s policy director Rachel Wolbers wrote in a blog post.