On April 11, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) into law. The law, passed with bipartisan support, created a new federal offense that prohibits the use or operation of websites with the intent to "promote" or "facilitate" prostitution, expanded existing liability for federal sex trafficking offenses, and amended Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Touted as the "most important law protecting Internet speech," section 230 provides broad protection for online intermediaries that host or republish speech. It immunizes online intermediaries from liability for the things that third-party users post and say. With overbroad language and no clear parameters, FOSTA has led, and will continue to lead, to online intermediaries that host sexual content to shutter their sites and to censor certain speech.
This Note argues that laws such as FOSTA, ones that go after "sex trafficking," perpetuate stigmatization of those in the sex work industry and are more harmful than they are helpful. Sex trafficking is an easy concept to look at in only black-and-white. However, it is a nuanced topic and, as such, deserves a nuanced analysis before policy makers promulgate laws such as FOSTA.
Regina A. Russo,
Online Sex Trafficking Hysteria: Flawed Policies, Ignored Human Rights, and Censorship,
68 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol68/iss2/10