If you support free speech, you support sex trafficking. At least that’s what politicians hope the public will think.
Clever politicians seem to be learning. If they want to censor the web and destroy free speech, they need to pick the right targets for their legislation. Of course, in reality, the legislation will end up affecting all of us.
Their efforts really amount to holding websites accountable for what their users post. They are shining a light on Backpage, a website much like Craigslist where users post ads. The website lets users post based on location for things like buying and selling items, job listings, and community events.
The legal issues come from Backpage failing to stop the use of its website for sex trafficking. Ads appear in adult and dating sections which facilitate prostitution.
But why should a website be held accountable for what users post? Is Facebook held accountable for drug deals arranged through its messenger? Should Twitter be held responsible when a riot is organized with the platform?
But politicians aren’t talking about the potential for their legislation to affect sectors other than sex trafficking. They use emotional pleas. And this could mean more Americans are willing to stomach legislation that would seriously threaten any website that allows users to post. Hosts would be liable for user content.
That means anyone who has a website would be at serious risk of legal trouble if any piece of their business lets users post. Websites like Facebook who can hire countless employees to police the content might not care. But what about small websites? What about message boards, and comments sections?
Trade groups representing Google, Facebook and other Internet giants warn of a “devastating impact” on the tech industry if the 1996 Communications Decency Act is tinkered with in the way lawmakers envision to hold Backpage and others liable for criminal material on their pages.