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When the Internet Association changed its lobbying course and threw its support behind a controversial piece of legislation ostensibly designed to combat sex trafficking, IA President/CEO Michael Beckerman released a statement explaining the reason for the organization’s change in attitude toward the bill.

“Important changes made to SESTA will grant victims the ability to secure the justice they deserve, allow internet platforms to continue their work combating human trafficking, and protect good actors in the ecosystem,” Beckerman said.

Now that a lawsuit has been filed naming IA member Facebook as an entity which has “knowingly aided and assisted sex traffickers,” I can’t help but wonder whether Beckerman regrets his organization’s change of heart. Alternatively, maybe he no longer considers Facebook one of the “good actors in the ecosystem” – or never considered them to be such in the first place?

I also wonder if Facebook COO Sherly Sandberg is having any second thoughts about her support of FOSTA, now that her company is facing a lawsuit alleging it has been grossly negligent and has for years “permitted sex traffickers unfiltered access to the most vulnerable members of our society.”

In their understandable zeal to combat human trafficking, our elected representatives in Washington decided what was needed was to make it clear that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act “was never intended to provide legal protection to websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”

Facebook may well be able to persuade a court to toss out the claims pending against it in Doe v. Facebook. But without the presumed protection of Section 230 in place to shield them, how many more social media platforms, messaging apps, search engines and any other manner of telecommunications technology which CAN be used by sex traffickers face claims of vicarious liability in similar civil actions, going forward?


Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of different pen names) since 2002.