R Street Statement on the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017
The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), as reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, carefully balanced the many interests of prosecutors, sex trafficking victims, online businesses, and Internet users. For this reason, it received support from a broad range of stakeholders from across the political spectrum, including think tanks, trade associations, prosecutors, and organizations. The R Street Institute is wary of the potential consequences of any amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. However, we recognize the importance of the bipartisan effort that went into drafting the committee version of FOSTA.
In spite of this worthy effort, a minutes-to-midnight amendment, introduced due to pressure from Congressional leadership, upsets the committee’s measured judgment. It reinserts the most controversial portions of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA). This will cost FOSTA the bipartisan, broad coalition support it has achieved thus far. It will also resurrect the host of concerns that led to widespread opposition to SESTA. For these reasons, the Rules Committee should oppose the amendment or, at minimum, delay consideration to enable reasoned debate over the changes. For a bill with momentous impact and numerous likely unintended consequences, the language of FOSTA should not be pushed through in last-minute form without due consideration.