How did FOSTA change the internet?
In a post-FOSTA world, Section 230 still protects websites from lawsuits over criminal sexual conduct by their users.
FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in early 2018 and signed into law by President Trump later that year. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that has long been seen as a key piece of internet regulation. Section 230 protects websites from being sued over criminal sexual conduct by their users. That protection will remain in place even after FOSTA takes effect. FOSTA targets websites that knowingly host ads for prostitution or facilitate prostitution through chat rooms or other means. The bill makes it a crime to operate such a website, and it allows victims of sex trafficking to sue the operators of those sites. Critics say that FOSTA could have a chilling effect on free speech online, and that it could lead to censorship of legitimate content. But supporters say the bill is necessary to crack down on sex trafficking.
What is FOSTA?
FOSTA is the acronym for the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, a bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate on March 21, 2018. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has long been interpreted as providing broad immunity to website operators from liability for user-generated content.
FOSTA narrows the scope of that immunity by making it clear that websites can be held liable for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill also creates a new federal crime of sex trafficking, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The passage of FOSTA was a victory for advocates who have long argued that Section 230 has been used as a shield by websites that knowingly allow their platforms to be used for illegal activity, including prostitution and sex trafficking.
Critics of FOSTA argue that the law could have a chilling effect on free speech online, and that it will make it harder for law enforcement to track down and prosecute perpetrators of sex trafficking.
What is Section 230?
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a law that protects websites from being sued over user-generated content. The law applies to all types of websites, including social media platforms, chat rooms, and forums. Section 230 says that websites are not responsible for the actions of their users. This means that if someone posts illegal content on a website, the website cannot be sued for publishing that content. Section 230 also protects websites from being sued if they remove or moderate user-generated content.
How did FOSTA change the internet?
When the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was signed into law in April 2018, it aimed to crack down on online sex trafficking by making it a federal crime to host websites that facilitate prostitution. The bill also held website owners liable for any criminal sexual conduct that takes place on their platforms, even if they weren't aware of it.
This had a major impact on the internet, as many websites that hosted user-generated content (including forums, classifieds, and social media) suddenly became liable for any potentially illegal activity that took place on their site. This made many website owners shut down or censor their platforms entirely, in order to avoid being sued or prosecuted.
While FOSTA was well-intentioned, it ended up having a chilling effect on free speech online. It also didn't do much to actually stop sex trafficking, as most of this activity has simply moved underground or onto dark web sites where it's harder to track.
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