Home » William D King: The CARES Act: What You Need to Know about the New Sex Trafficking Bill

William D King: The CARES Act: What You Need to Know about the New Sex Trafficking Bill

William D King

On September 19, 2017, President Trump signed SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) into law as part of an omnibus bill called the “Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Spaces Act” or “CHILD-Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act,” explains William D King.

This new legislation amends the Communications Decency Act (CDA), a portion of which was struck down by Reno v. ACLU as unconstitutional for violating freedom of speech online. Now that Congress has amended the CDA, it’s important we know what this entails for those who sell sexual services on the internet.

What It Means for People Who Sell Sexual Services:

The following includes a summary of the new law, grouped by subject.

The ‘Exclusion Clause’: The CDA’s “exclusionary rule” now excludes state criminal charges against online platforms for users’ actions. This means that states can no longer charge websites with crimes for their users’ speech. Although it is still possible to bring federal charges against websites under this section, advocates are celebrating this change as it limits opportunities to abuse the law and brings trafficking laws back in line with free speech protections.

However, the exclusionary rule does not apply if a platform assists or facilitates prostitution or child exploitation. Thus, it appears that Craigslist has removed its Erotic Services subsection out of an abundance of caution since it doesn’t want to risk being charged with federal crimes. William D King says it is important to note that the language here is extremely vague and its application unclear, but Congress will surely clarify it later with additional guidance for websites.

What It Means for People Who Sell Sexual Services:

We don’t really know what this means yet, as it hasn’t been clarified by courts or Congress since it was included in SESTA/FOSTA’s amendment of the CDA. However, given that Craigslist has removed its Erotic Services ads out of an abundance of caution, we can assume that they’re concerned about liability under these new guidelines. It seems likely that other online platforms will follow suit, which would prevent sex workers from effectively advertising their services online unless they advertise on uncensored forums or websites, which obviously risk being shut down by the government.

What It Means for People Who Sell Sexual Services:

SESTA/FOSTA amends Section 230 of the CDA so that the law will now hold online platforms liable for any content. Including advertisements, created or posted by third party users says, William D King. This means that if a sex worker posts an advertisement online but doesn’t have full administrative control over that platform. They can no longer claim safe harbor protections if it’s found that their ad violates federal trafficking laws.

What It Means for People Who Sell Sexual Services:

This means that if a sex worker posts an advertisement online but doesn’t have full administrative control over that platform. They can no longer claim safe harbor protections if it’s that their ad violates federal trafficking laws.

The only exception to this rule is if the platform falls under one of three categories, which are as follows:

1) A provider of interactive computer services whose role was “only” limits to providing access

2) A tool or facility for finding an advertiser or third party content

3) A provider that did not create the content.

Having said that, Section 230 does allow online platforms to bring civil charges against any third party, including sex traffickers. Who are violating federal trafficking laws? Thus, this amendment may actually make it easier for internet companies to sue sex traffickers operating on their websites.

What It Means for People Who Sell Sexual Services:

This is a very complex question with no clear answer. The most obvious conclusion is that Section 230 will now allow online platforms. To successfully sue people under federal trafficking laws. If they have trafficked or coerced someone into selling sexual services through their platform. However, the actual impact of this change remains unclear because not all states have criminalized trafficking yet. Even in states where human trafficking is already illegal. It’s possible that these new penalties will only target. Those who are actively engaging in coercion or force—such as pimps or sex traffickers. And not those who are coercing by them, such as underage individuals or victims of domestic violence.

Conclusion:

While SESTA/FOSTA seems to be stopping trafficking by scaring platforms away from hosting any kind of sex work-related content. It’s important to consider that this is also driving trafficking further underground explains William D King. As the previous administration noted in their report on online sex work. “By driving commercial sex advertisements off of the open web and onto the streets. Where it is more difficult for law enforcement to monitor, SESTA/FOSTA may inadvertently increase victim vulnerability”. By forcing commercial sexual services back into dark alleyways or shady neighborhoods. They are even less likely to be able to find help. If something goes wrong during a transaction or an attempt at outreach for assistance.