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Faso votes for anti-sex trafficking bill that could weaken free speech

Mar 01, 2018 11:55 am
The House of Representatives -- with Rep. John Faso's vote -- approved sex trafficking legislation Feb. 27, making it easier for states to prosecute websites that facilitate prostitution and sex trafficking. The final vote was 388-25, but that is misleading. Democrats, didn't want to appear to vote against a sex trafficking bill called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. An earlier vote to end amendments to the bill passed just 235-175, again with Faso, a Republican from Kinderhook, voting with the majority. Democrats and critics of the bill say it could undermine a key legal protection for free speech online. The House bill changes Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. That section of federal law lets Internet websites allow public comment without worrying about getting sued for what someone else posts on their site. "[The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act] would punch a major hole in Section 230, enabling lawsuits and prosecutions against online platforms—including ones that aren’t even aware that sex trafficking is taking place," the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote on Feb. 27. The companion legislation in the U.S. Senate, called the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, currently has a hold placed on it by civil liberties champion Ron Wyden, effectively freezing any action there.
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