Currently website owners are considered bulletin board owners, we are responsible for the site but not always the content, for example, Craigslist and Backpage.
Yesterday the Senate passed the legislation 97-2, changing the rules.
Until now, those efforts have been thwarted by the liability shield in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The bill was proposed after a California judge dismissed criminal charges against Backpage.com and its CEO over online ads featuring underage girls because of Section 230, but now that loophole is no longer.
For the first time our government is working to create laws for today’s Technology said Rand Paul.
The Internet Association, a trade group representing many tech companies including Google, said in a statement following the Senate vote that the industry “shares the goals of lawmakers who want to put an end to trafficking online,” but focused on the urgency of keeping tech’s liability shield intact. “IA will continue our work to preserve Section 230 and prevent attempts to weaken this crucial protection protection,” the group said.
On its way to final passage, the bill was altered several times, including an amendment in December that created a new prostitution crime and then a last minute amendment in February that restored the ability of state law enforcement and private plaintiffs to go after companies like Backpage.
The new crime, intent to facilitate prostitution, was introduced under the Mann Act, the infamous 1910 law known as the White Slavery Act, which critics argue has been enforced in a discriminatory way. Roping in the Mann Act alarmed activists for sex workers, whose voices have dominated coverage of the bill in recent weeks.
The bill will create an exception Section 230 for enforcing federal and state criminal and civil law related to sex trafficking if a website operator “knowingly” assists, supports, or facilitates sex trafficking.
Opponents say the bill will change the way outside content is moderated on the internet, but they don’t agree on how. Some say the “knowingly” standard will push tech companies to stop all moderation efforts for fear of finding something and being held liable. Other say the bill will result in extreme censorship as companies scour their platforms for any content related to sex trafficking, harming sex workers in the process.
For a small media company like us, this means we must eliminate our classified ads that operate automatically, and we will either need to close classified advertising sections in our products or we must now manually approve each and every ad placed.