Some of you in the United States may already be aware of a bill proposed
earlier in August in Congress that would weaken internet platforms'
intermediary liability protections under the Communications Decency Act,
The bill is S. 1693
The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (known as "SESTA"), and its
counterpart in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1865). SESTA aims to
address the problem of online sex trafficking by creating new holes in the
intermediary liability rules for websites hosting user-generated content.
It would also amend federal trafficking laws to broaden the scope of
“participation” (meaning to be liable under the sex trafficking laws) to
potentially include websites used in certain ways by traffickers.
These bills are getting significant attention from people interested in
Internet policy and free expression online. CDA 230 is a crucial rule for
preserving the legal structure that supports and enables community-driven
platforms like the Wikimedia projects.
Here's what a few people we work with have said about the bill:
- The EFF has warned about the bill's effects
on freedom of expression and innovation
- The ACLU also penned a letter expressing concern with the bill
free expression grounds
- A letter from R Street explains how the bill would actually be counter
to its goal
The Wikimedia Foundation has a position in favor of safe harbor rules
<https://policy.wikimedia.org/policy-landing/liability/> like CDA 230,
since they allow website hosts to act neutrally and avoid interfering with
community governance. The EFF has previously published a short interview
about the importance of these rules
<https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230/successes/wikipedia> for Wikipedia.
Next week, Congress in the US will return from its August recess, you may
see more discussion around CDA 230 and this bill. Senate hearings on SESTA
are expected in later in September.
*NOTICE: As an attorney for the Wikimedia Foundation, for legal and ethical
reasons, I cannot give legal advice to, or serve as a lawyer for, community
members, volunteers, or staff members in their personal capacity. For more
on what this means, please see our legal disclaimer