Dear President Trump, Don’t Sign SESTA-FOSTA: Let the Internet #HaveAVoice
Private Internet Access believes that internet was built with free speech as a cornerstone. When these foundations are weakened by attacks such as SESTA-FOSTA, Private Internet Access feels the weight of responsibility to act. That is why we have taken out a side by side ad in the New York Times to call on the American people to challenge President Trump to not sign SESTA-FOSTA into law, the latest attack on Internet rights and freedoms.
This past week, a new US law called SESTA-FOSTA was passed and has put the internet on a slippery slope that leads to censorship on your favorite websites. If President Trump signs SESTA-FOSTA into law, mandatory filtering of the internet will have begun – with free speech on the internet as the true casualty.
As George Washington once said:
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
SESTA-FOSTA removes CDA Section 230 online free speech protections
Freedom of Speech on the internet is largely protected by the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In 1996, when Congress passed the CDA, they included a section that established the cornerstone of free speech on the internet, Section 230. Section 230 reads “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Section 230 protects internet companies that host or republish speech from the variety of laws that might be used to find them liable for the speech of others.
Passage of SESTA subjects internet companies – from the largest sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc to potential criminal liability under state sex trafficking statutes and increase potential civil liability under both federal and state civil sex trafficking laws. SESTA is unnecessary because CDA Section 230 does not provide immunity to internet companies for violating federal criminal laws at all. Without SESTA-FOSTA, companies can already be found liable under federal criminal sex trafficking laws and sex trafficking online can be identified and stomped out.
The day the internet lost its voice
The ACLU described the bill as a “serious, yet unsuccessful, attempt to stop the use of the Internet for sex trafficking without hindering online freedom of expression and artistic innovation.” SESTA-FOSTA doesn’t even help fight sex trafficking, according to sex trafficking experts. Instead it’ll be used to remove the power from the internet: The power of freedom of information, the power of freedom of speech, and the power of the potential of upward mobility in society.
The consequences of this bill passing the House and Senate, even while unsigned, are already reverberating through the internet. Craigslist and Reddit both axed infamous personal section and sex related subreddits within hours of the bill passing. On the other end of the spectrum, Google is already removing pornography, according to a report by VICE. SESTA-FOSTA doesn’t even help fight sex trafficking, according to sex trafficking experts. Instead, it’ll be used to remove the power from the internet: The power of freedom of information, the power of freedom of speech, and the power of the potential of upward mobility in society.
To netizens, this is an act of treason. Please join us and call on President Trump not to sign SESTA-FOSTA. This is undoubtedly the beginning of a very, very slippery slope. Exercise your rights. #HaveAVoice… While you still can.
Featured image from Philip Fisher.