Don't Let Congress Censor the Internet

There’s a new bill in Congress that would threaten your right to free expression online. If that weren’t enough, it could also put small Internet businesses in danger of catastrophic litigation.

Don’t let its name fool you: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) wouldn’t help punish sex traffickers. What it would do is expose the Internet content platforms that we all rely on every day to the risk of overwhelming criminal and civil liability for their customers’ actions.

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SESTA would erode one of the most important laws protecting free expression online. Under current law, an intermediary (like a social media platform or a message board) can’t be held legally responsible for the content created by its users for purposes of enforcing certain laws affecting speech online.

SESTA would extend more criminal and civil liability for sex trafficking to content platforms, thus making opening or running such a platform an extremely dangerous venture. The law would affect any company, organization, or individual that hosts content created by someone else on the Internet: social media sites, photo and video-sharing apps, newspaper comment sections, and even community mailing lists. Small Internet startups would become vulnerable to extremely costly legal threats. So would web platforms run by nonprofit and community groups, which serve as invaluable outlets for free expression and knowledge sharing.

There’s a similar bill in the House. With many lawmakers showing their support for these bills, it’s crucial that Internet users tell them how damaging the bills will be for free speech and innovation on the Internet.

Tell your members of Congress: sex trafficking is a real, horrible problem, but these bills are not the solution.