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WASHINGTON – In its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and its co-plaintiffs reference legal precedent set in a wide variety of prior cases.

On Capitol Hill this week, a different sort of ‘precedent’ involving FOSTA predictably reared its head.

In a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing held Wednesday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin analogized the human trafficking targeted under FOSTA to drug trafficking – and wondered aloud about the possibility of carving out a FOSTA-like exception to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act hold accountable websites and platforms allegedly being used by drug traffickers to promote and distribute opioids and other drugs.

“Just like how we passed FOSTA and SESTA, we passed bills that held you liable and responsible,” Manchin said. “Don’t you think we should do the same with opiate drugs and the way they’re being used in your platform? Would you all support us doing that?”

In Washington, the sort of political precedent set by the passage of FOSTA often proves just as important the legal ones. Once legislators get a taste of the benefits of pandering to a given set of lobbyists, or a particularly influential special interest group by “getting tough” on a headline-grabbing type of crime, or “closing a loophole” in an existing law, they look for other opportunities to repeat that political success.

It’s hard to say whether the changes to Section 230 envisioned by Manchin (or those feared by Wyden) ever come to pass. What’s easier to predict is we’ll hear more bright ideas from others in the Senate and House about ways they’d like to undermine Section 230 to address some societal ill – or maybe just to give their poll numbers a bump.