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CTA: Congress Is Right to Fight Sex Trafficking Crimes But Not With SESTA

Arlington, VA – September 19, 2017 – 

The following statement is attributed to Michael Petricone, senior vice president of government affairs, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), regarding today's legislative hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to debate "S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017" which would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA):

"SESTA is a well-intended response to the horrific crime of sex trafficking - but it is not a solution and would have serious, unintended consequences for legitimate businesses and entrepreneurs.
"CDA 230 is the legal foundation of the internet. By ensuring that web platforms are not held liable for the actions of their users, CDA 230 enables the internet to function. Without this protection, internet platforms - some of whom receive hundreds of millions of user submissions a day - would face potentially crushing legal liability. No reasonable person would start or invest in such a business.
"CDA 230 is not a shield for criminal liability. Sex trafficking is already a crime, and there is no reason why the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot prosecute sex traffickers right now. Congress must insist that DOJ prioritize the prosecution of sex traffickers and has the resources it needs to bring them to justice.
"SESTA's provisions are so vague as to implicate innocent and legal businesses. Its broad language could actually penalize businesses for proactively looking for evidence of sex crimes on their websites. And it changes the law to allow trial lawyers to bring a flood of frivolous lawsuits against legitimate websites. While legal sites grapple with SESTA's unintended harms, criminals will easily change their URLs or leave the country to avoid consequences.
"These and other provisions are the reasons why free speech and civil society groups from across the political spectrum have come together to state that SESTA is the wrong approach. 
"Our industry has a long record of working with law enforcement, victims and advocacy groups to fight sex trafficking. We have provided tools such as facial recognition technology, child-saving abduction alerts and artificial intelligence that comb through millions of ads online to flag potential victims and allow police to more quickly investigate and track down traffickers. We urge the bill's sponsors to give serious consideration to the various proposals the tech community has offered as a way to enhance the ongoing fight against sex trafficking without inadvertently harming lawful and legitimate American innovators."