Previously, I’ve posted about how tech giants like Google opposed amending the Communications Decency Act of 1996. After the drubbing Google and Facebook took during last week’s Senate hearing about the Russian political ads debacle, they now have seemed to thrown their support behind the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This is the bill that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that has allowed sites like Backpage to avoid prosecution for their role in the sex trafficking of women and children.
Previously, tech giants like Google had opposed the bill fearing it would open them to potential lawsuits even though the amendment to the CDA specifically targets sites that bad-actor websites. Now, The Internet Association, which represents such tech luminaries as Google, Facebook and Twitter, has reversed their opposition to the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
While it may not have been done out of the goodness of their hearts, but more to try to get Congress off their backs, this is still an important step towards the bill becoming law. Without as many allies, Backpage’s support is now crumbling. We are now several steps closer to seeing protections enabled to prevent girls and women from being trafficked on sites like Backpage and hopefully the successful prosecution of those who have profited way too long from their victims’ suffering.
Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, is one of the few nationally known journalists who has continually reported on the transgressions of Backpage when it comes to Backpage’s part in the sex trade. In one of his recent columns, Kristoff goes after an even bigger fish in the polluted waters of internet sex trafficking, Google. Google opposes the proposed amendments to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the protections from prosecution that sites like Backpage have been hiding behind, otherwise known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
Kristoff claims that Google has an unfounded fear when it comes to their argument of a slippery slope with Google claiming the new amendment to the CDA could open them up to frivolous lawsuits. However, a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited children points out the new legislation is crafted in such a way that it only applies to those sites which are directly receiving money from traffickers.
“This bill only impacts bad-actor websites,” notes Yiota Souras, general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “You don’t inadvertently traffic a child.”
Yet the majority of Silicon Valley is opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act mostly out of fear that it will somehow affect their right to free speech, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no slippery slope here. There is no downside. I think what the mostly insular tech community forgets is the victims being bought and sold into sexual slavery on sites like Backpage are real flesh and blood people and not just nameless pixels on a display screen.
Instead of worrying about Backpage’s ‘freedom of speech’ these tech companies should be more worried about the fact that many of the women and girls being trafficked on Backpage have no freedom at all in a country that prides itself on liberty.
I went to Google News, like I often do, to search for the specific details of a crime that’s been in the news. I enter one of the victims’ names as my search query and the first result that pops up goes to some obnoxiously pink gossip site. This isn’t the first time it’s happened either. When a major crime story breaks this is usually the first site that shows up in my e-mail notifications. So do they have some kind of agreement with Google or are they gaming the system? Sadly I think it’s because this is where more people are going for ‘news’.
Unfortunately, like a lot of Google products, no competitor is offering a similar service.