Sex trafficking law figures prominently in latest bid to weaken Section 230

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Sex trafficking law figures prominently in latest bid to weaken Section 230

A Senate panel is expected to give the go-ahead on Thursday to a controversial bill that could hold websites liable if they fail to crack down on child pornography material. It marks the latest attempt by Congress to weaken the protections afforded under the embattled law known as Section 230.

But as lawmakers consider punching a new hole in that legal shield, a host of civil society groups opposing the bill have a message for them: learn from your past mistakes.

In 2018, Congress passed FOSTA-SESTA, a contentious measure that opened up digital services to prosecution if they knowingly facilitated sex trafficking on their sites. Despite its aims, critics have warned that the measure could have an unintended chilling effect on free speech and harm sex workers trying to communicate safely online.

Now civil liberties advocates, human rights groups and tech industry leaders are once again sounding the alarm that the new bill could endanger the people it seeks to protect. .

The legislation, called the EARN IT Act, would create a commission to make recommendations to platforms on how best to reduce child abuse on their products. This would open the platforms to liability under all federal and state civil laws, as well as state criminal laws, related to the hosting of child pornography material. (Section 230 permits liability under federal criminal law.)

The proposal was unanimously advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2020, but did not get a floor vote before the session of Congress expired. It’s likely to get another airy vote of approval when the panel scores the bill again on Thursday.

But in a letter wednesday To Senate lawmakers, a coalition of advocacy groups and nonprofits argued that “the changes will threaten our ability to speak freely and safely online, and threaten the very lawsuits the bill seeks.” to allow”.

Faced with the threat of new liability under the EARN IT Act, some argued that platforms are likely to inadvertently crack down on sex-ed materials, disproportionately harming younger LGBTQ users.

“Platforms can again ban and censor sex-related speech, especially if it’s about young people,” another coalition of civil rights groups written in 2020. “These sex censorship regimes are particularly harmful to LGBTQ communities and sex worker communities, as their advocacy often deals with or relates to issues involving sex and sex education.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the main sponsor of the EARN IT Act, pushed back against the idea that the bill targets legal speech, not illegal activity.

“Child rape images are not free speech. People who are sold, trafficked, abused and exploited are not engaging in consensual work,” he told The Technology 202 in a statement.

Yiota Sourasenior vice president and general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the group “continues to believe that FOSTA-SESTA provides powerful tools for child victims to pursue civil lawsuits and for state attorneys general to protect the rights of child victims of sex trafficking Souras, whose group also supports the EARN IT Act, said the bill “does not deal with any subject except narrowly and graphically defined child pornography.” .

Since its passage, several prominent progressive lawmakers have called for the repeal of FOSTA-SESTA and warned against creating further exceptions to Section 230.

representing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) told me in February 2020 that she supports the repeal of the law, which she says has pushed “sex workers onto the streets into an extremely dangerous situation, creating much more harm and danger.” representing Ro Khanna (D-California), which voted against the sex trafficking measure in 2018, also called for its reversal.

Souras said the GAO study did not address ongoing civil cases stemming from FOSTA-SESTA. He noted that cases involving child sex trafficking can move slowly through the courts as victims “are involved in difficult recoveries from the crimes inflicted upon them.” And he argued that legal remedies, even if not actively pursued, can “deter those who may engage in such criminal conduct against children”.

Khanna and other Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) have also proposed legislation to compel the government to study the impact of FOSTA-SESTA on sex workers.

But lawmakers who voted for FOSTA-SESTA stuck to the measure, which they hailed at the time as key to thwarting sex trafficking. And while some progressive Democrats have called for its repeal, others are reluctant to do so.

“I want to see a proposal for what you put in its place,” Warren told me in December when I asked her if she supported the repeal of FOSTA-SESTA.

She added: ‘If we’re talking about repeal, there has to be something that we’re sure protects vulnerable people from exploitation, and that’s the conversation I keep having with people. I understand why people talk about change, but what happens in its place? »

Biden’s FCC pick faced a second Senate grill

Republican senators continued to explode Gigi Sohn, Biden’s pick for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. Sohn said she was “subjected to relentless, unfair and downright false criticism and scrutiny,” Bloomberg News reported. Todd Shields and Mary Curi report.

“Republican lawmakers focused on Sohn’s promise to recuse herself from certain FCC policies she addressed 12 years ago as a consumer advocate,” Shields and Curi write. “They also asked about his time on the board of the non-profit service Locast which relayed TV broadcast signals online until he was arrested by a judge. The service ceased last year and agreed to pay a settlement.

The Senate Commerce Committee was set to vote on Sohn’s nomination last week, but the senator. Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.) suffered a stroke, delaying the vote. He could be back in the next few weeks. Sohn, a net neutrality advocate, represents a critical majority for Democrats in the FCC.

Microsoft announced new App Store principles

Microsoft’s 11 principles mirror the Open App Markets Act, which was recently proposed in the Senate, Cat Zakrzewski reports. It comes as the tech giant seeks regulatory approval for its $68.7 billion purchase of video game publisher Activision Blizzard.

More than a dozen regulators around the world will need to sign on to the agreement, Microsoft’s chairman said. Brad Smith told reporters. The Federal Trade Commission is handling the deal in the United States, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Smith said he, CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella and other leaders are meeting with members of Congress and think tanks in Washington as part of an offensive designed to preempt regulatory action.

“Microsoft stands to benefit from legislation regulating app stores, which other tech giants, including Apple and Google, have strongly opposed. With the purchase of Activision, the company is moving more aggressively in game subscriptions,” Cat writes. “If legislation such as the Open App Markets Act were to become law, Microsoft would be able to bring its subscription-based gaming service and even its own game store to more than devices, including those running Apple operating systems.”

ID.me drops a facial recognition requirement for state and federal agencies

The decision to drop the requirement in identity verification software used by 30 states and 10 federal agencies is a major reversal, Drew Harwell reports. The company also said anyone will be able to delete their photo data from March 1.

The announcement came a day after the Internal Revenue Service said it would no longer seek to require people trying to access their tax records online to submit a “video selfie” to the contractor. About two dozen lawmakers slammed the IRS’ planned deployment of technology before announcing it would seek alternatives.

Twitter analyzed the new principles of Microsoft’s application store. IGN Taylor Lyles:

There were also comments about Microsoft’s dominance (or lack thereof) in the App Store space. High in caffeine Steve Troughton-Smith and software engineer Marcin Krzyzanowski:

  • Sarah Kemp joins Intel as vice president of international government affairs. She most recently worked as an Associate Vice President at Organon and was previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of the International Trade Administration.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee should to discuss the EARN IT Act in a meeting today at 9 a.m.
  • Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra discusses consumer protection in the age of Big Tech at a Washington Post Live event today at 10 a.m.
  • representing Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delete) speak at an ITI and Bridge for Innovation event on equity and technology opportunity on Monday at 1 p.m.

ThisThat’s all for today — thank you so much for joining us! Be sure to tell others to subscribe to the Technology 202 here. Get in touch with advice, comments or greetings on Twitter Where E-mail.

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