When should online platforms be liable for unlawful activity?

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09/07/2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Internet freedom, human trafficking and Section 230

In 1996, Congress passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law has made today’s vibrant internet ecosystem possible by providing limited immunity for online platforms that give users the opportunity and freedom to generate their own content. This means that social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter—or websites that host classifieds like Craigslist—have generally not been held responsible for potentially illegal activity by their users.

Internet freedom advocates argue that Section 230 is a crucial safeguard for free expression, which allowed the unique and innovative modern internet as we know it to develop and thrive. But amidst allegations that Backpage.com knowingly facilitated sex trafficking, many argue that more needs to be done to hold intermediaries accountable. In August, Sen. Portman, R-Ohio, and a slew of cosponsors introduced the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, which aims to weaken Section 230 protections and create a new, vague standard for liability under federal criminal law.

Does Section 230 need to be revised to enhance public safety? What implications would the recently introduced sex trafficking legislation have on America’s internet ecosystem? Please join R Street Institute and TechFreedom as we bring together a panel of experts to consider these important questions.

Lunch will be served.


Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Associate Editor, Reason Magazine

Arthur Rizer, Director of National Security and Justice Policy, R Street Institute

Berin Szóka, President, TechFreedom

Jeff Kosseff, Assistant Professor, United States Naval Academy Center for Cyber Security Studies

(Additional panelists may be added)


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