WHAT YOU CAN DO
The battle to update Section 230 has, for the moment, concluded with a narrowly drafted bill which overwhelming passed the House of Representatives and passed the Senate with a vote of 97-2. On April 11, 2018, the President signed “FOSTA-SESTA” into law.
The legislation is in response to a 1st Circuit decision which ruled last year in Doe v Backpage that even if Backpage were involved in criminal conduct (not speech) in violation of the trafficking act (TVPRA), that it was shielded from any responsibility by Section 230. That decision was a radical extension of the immunity typically afforded to passive websites hosting third party content, making clear that online bad actors who may be engaged in criminal conduct were now also protected.
The 1st Circuit court also advised the child plaintiffs to seek a legislative remedy. And the children have done just that. The new bill is a narrowly crafted bill with broad stakeholder support (Facebook, NGOs, survivors, advocates, law enforcement, Fortune 500 companies), that seeks only to hold websites that “knowingly” facilitate this crime accountable.
Yet we continue to face opposition from Google-funded groups who have been fiercely waging a disinformation campaign. This is about the 1st Circuit interpreting an outdated law to protect criminal actors, and has nothing to do with free speech or innovation. See our PSA with Amy Schumer, Seth Meyers, and others.
GOOGLE and TECH COMPLICITY
Perhaps one of the most stunning discoveries in the making of this film was discovering that Google and others in the tech community have been actively funding organizations involved in supporting Backpage’s legal defense. Recent audio surfaced of an event where Google lawyers invited Backpage lawyers to discuss Section 230. Listen at 53 minutes in (where the Google lawyer laughs as she introduces the Backpage cases.) In a second piece of audio, Google lawyers met with Backpage General Counsel, Liz McDougall, to discuss best practices to dismiss Jane Doe and other Section 230 claims. These pieces of audio reveal that Google’s support of Backpage is greater than originally believed.
See also this clip from Google’s annual shareholder’s meeting, where Google executives respond to Nacole’s request that the company stop supporting Backpage. See also this blistering report from Consumer Watchdog which outlines Google’s ties to Backpage.
Google, according to a study by a Harvard Business School professor, has 1 billion reasons to fight any amendment to Section 230. Why? Because it earns more than $1 billion annually in illegal ads.
Finally, a new scholarly legal journal article on the need to amend Section 230 was just published in July.
Special protection for fledging internet companies trying to filter content in good faith made sense back in 1996 because there were no tools to manage large amounts of content. Fast forward to 2018. Section 230 has not only given new media a competitive advantage over old media, but query whether Google and other online companies should be able to profit handsomely from paid content, and still claim no responsibility for the harm from that content. Whether it be child-sex trafficking ads, fake news, or Russian ads. Technology has outpaced our regulatory framework as has online harm.
Professor Mary G. Leary of The Catholic University of America wrote a law review article about Section 230 and sex trafficking, published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy: here.
SIGN a CHANGE.ORG PETITION
Nacole and Dr. Oz have launched a Change.org petition, asking the tech community to step forward and support the children who have been fighting for justice. Now at over 214,000 signatures.
CONTACT THE LARGEST DONORS TO THE CDT
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, two high profile internet freedom groups, have publicly embraced and defended Backpage. They have also actively intervened in the cases filed by the Jane Doe children, filing briefs in support of Backpage. Technology companies are the primary donors of both organizations. In 2014, the largest donor to the CDT was Google (but other significant donors include Microsoft). Meaning that the funds from these companies are going to support Backpage (against the Jane Doe children). Consider writing letters to the CEOs of these companies asking them to (a) disavow the intervention by the EFF and CDT in these lawsuits filed by the children, and (b) discuss legislative changes to Section 230 to incentivize websites to better protect children from online sex trafficking and other online crimes.
Google: Sundar Pichai, CEO. c/o Google, 1600 Apitheatre Parkway, Mountain View CA 94043
Microsoft: Satya Nadella, CEO. c/o Microsoft, One Microsoft Way, Redmond WA 98502
@MissingKids estimates that 1 out of every 5 underage runaways is sex trafficked. #SpeakOutFightBack www.IamJaneDoeFilm.com
@HHSgov says kids are targeted for trafficking in malls, bus stops, and fast-food restaurants. #SpeakOutFightBack www.IamJaneDoeFilm.com
@MissingKids says that 73% of all suspected child sex trafficking cases have a link to Backpage. #SpeakOutFightBack IamJaneDoeFilm.com
We, too, cherish internet freedom, but need safeguards to protect children from online harm. #SpeakOutFightBack IamJaneDoeFilm.com
Section 230 is different from the 1st Amendment. See more at www.IamJaneDoeFilm.com
The law has not kept pace with evolving technology. #SpeakOutFightBack IAmJaneDoeFilm.com
See the film
I AM JANE DOE is now available on Vimeo and DVD. 50% of all profits from this project will be donated back to support services and prevention efforts for child sex trafficking. The film is now available for events and fundraising. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-239-7000 for details.
HELP ERADICATE CHILD-SEX TRAFFICKING
SUSPECTED CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING
If you suspect a child is being sexually exploited or trafficked, please call 1-800-THE-LOST or 1 (888) 373-7888.
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