And support for the bill has been fueled by an effective (if disingenuous) documentary called .
SESTA, in an amended version, was reported favorably out of committee in the Senate in January and set for the Senate’s regular legislative calendar.
After all, they have plenty of money in the bank and perhaps could adapt over time to all the additional costs of beefed-up monitoring, censorship of content, and the many more lawsuits they’d have to defend against.There are two legislative frameworks in conflict here.The first is the Communications Decency Act—specifically, Section 230 of it—which was passed in 1996.Some observers, including me, think this breadth is intentional—some companies and industries with their own beefs against internet companies want SESTA to be enacted as a precedent to whittle away other protections for internet services.There have been efforts to improve SESTA since I wrote about it in Slate last year.This month, Congress is considering whether to pass legislation intended to combat sex trafficking online.It may sound like a worthy goal, but it would undermine a more than 20-year-old law that has been fundamental to today’s internet.Although it had its own flaws, FOSTA at least targeted companies and individuals that were intentionally facilitating sex trafficking and related activities.Internet-law experts have been arguing against any law that alters the framework set up by Section 230, but many believed that in that form, FOSTA would have done comparatively less damage, thanks to its being limited by a strict criminal-law “intent” requirement.(Even keeping in mind that they wouldn’t win all those cases—there’d likely be big payouts to at least some plaintiffs and state attorneys general as well.) But new companies, which might otherwise hope to compete with Facebook, Google, or other big tech incumbents someday, wouldn’t be able to afford the costs of compliance and legal defense.They’d likely face the hard choice of either supercensorship (yank anything users say or post that seems even remotely likely to pose legal risk) or just abandoning the startup project altogether.