Advocates suspect tech-industry lobbyists are behind the new approach.

If the Dark Web has taught us anything, it’s that there are practically no limits to what you can buy online. Sex slaves, drugs, viruses and malware… even politicians… you can buy it for the right price if you know where to look. But some of those illicit transactions are making their way into the light, being offered practically in plain view, and a new piece of legislation was written to fight back.

Initially, the compromise that led to the current version of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act removes the protections currently in place for websites that allow others to post content. Basically, Twitter isn’t liable for (or even responsible for removing) content that its users post. Most sites claim they will work hard to maintain standards of safety and decency, but if something “slips through,” the site is not at fault.

Are tech companies trying to derail the sex-trafficking bill?

Are tech companies trying to derail the sex-trafficking bill? (Image courtesy of OSCE)

SESTA

That changes under the Senate version of the SESTA bill. Websites can be held liable for content that promotes or allows sex trafficking to take place. But at the last minute, a Republican representative in the House added an amendment to the House version that states the court must demonstrate “reckless disregard” for sex trafficking victims before the website can be held accountable.

Interference

Obviously, advocates and lawmakers are furious, and there are several tie-ins to potential tech industry lobbyist interference. If, in fact, tech giants wormed their way into the legislative process at the last minute in order to wash their hands of preventing sex trafficking through their own websites in order to avoid financial losses, well… they are already showing reckless disregard for victims.

Advocacy groups

Advocacy groups have already been quite vocal in their outrage at even the possibility that companies like Google or Facebook may have bought new wording in the bill that absolves them of any responsibility. While there are obstacles to putting an end to illegal activity online, sneaking in a word or two in order to avoid taking action is reprehensible in the victims’ groups’ eyes.