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(This combined House version is also called the “FOSTA-SESTA package” because an earlier version of FOSTA did not have elements of SESTA in it, as I’ll discuss in a minute.It’s worth reminding Congress that acronyms are supposed to make things easier to say and remember, not harder.) The House’s quick passage of its bill has set the stage for the Senate to vote on the mushed-together FOSTA-SESTA in the next few days—I say “mushed together” because the House bolted the broad pro-plaintiff provisions of SESTA onto FOSTA, leading to what one commentator has called “a FOSTA SESTA Frankenstein combination” that “takes the most plaintiff-favorable pieces of FOSTA and SESTA and creates a superset of both bills’ worst provisions.” Writ small, SESTA and FOSTA have always been ostensibly about sexual services offered on online classified-ads platforms like (expressly a target of the bill) and Craigslist (not officially a target)—especially if the services involve sex trafficking or victimization of children.
Of course, when you offer a service modeled after the phone companies, you may not be competing with Google or Facebook, but you’re almost certainly competing with AT&T and Verizon, not to mention the cable and internet companies.(In short, you’d be found “guilty”—that is, liable in a civil lawsuit—only if a jury believed you actually intended to facilitate sex trafficking with your online service.) Internet policy experts hoped that, at minimum, that clean version of FOSTA would replace SESTA.What happened instead is the FOSTA-SESTA package, in which House lawmakers have incorporated the worst provisions of both bills in ways aimed at making internet companies more subject to prosecution and lawsuits and more prone to censor users’ speech online.Although it had its own flaws, FOSTA at least targeted companies and individuals that were intentionally facilitating sex trafficking and related activities.Internet-law experts have been arguing against any law that alters the framework set up by Section 230, but many believed that in that form, FOSTA would have done comparatively less damage, thanks to its being limited by a strict criminal-law “intent” requirement.
And support for the bill has been fueled by an effective (if disingenuous) documentary called .