Yesterday, a Senate hearing was held in Washington DC to discuss a proposed
bill, called “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act”, or SESTA (bill S.1693).
As we noted in a message to this list earlier this month
SESTA aims to address the problem of online sex trafficking by creating new
holes in the intermediary liability rules for websites hosting
For yesterday’s hearing, we submitted a letter
in support of the current legal framework for freedom of expression and
intermediary liability protections to the Chairman of the U.S. Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation. In our letter, we explain
that, without the protections for internet platforms, afforded by the
Communications Decency Act (CDA) Section 230 and similar laws, there would
be significant legal barriers to building and sustaining collaborative
projects like Wikipedia.
The existing notice and takedown systems have proven to be scalable and
effective solutions to remove illegal content. The current legal
protections allow us to abstain from editorial decisions and empower the
communities to develop and enforce their own content policies. It is clear
that Wikipedia is no place for sex trafficking and content that would
violate these policies is removed swiftly.
SESTA would open the door for state specific obligations for platforms,
which is in conflict with the nature of the internet that unites people
across borders. Despite its laudable goal, the bill endangers projects like
Wikipedia which would not be possible in an environment where website hosts
are required to constantly monitor for possible violations of rules and
defend against a multitude of lawsuits. Open platforms have significantly
expanded free access to the world's knowledge, and new rules should not
come the expense of an open internet and collaboration online.
Public Policy Manager
149 New Montgomery Street, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105