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Unsurprisingly, Prodigy in its original form didn’t do well in the long run competing initially with more open, less moderated services like AOL and Compu Serve or, ultimately, with the offerings of the wide-open internet itself.
Alternatively, a would-be internet service company might try instead so as not to risk triggering liability based on “knowing” or “intentional” facilitation of sex trafficking or illegal sexual services.
Section 230 may have given us Google and Facebook, but a calamitous alteration or even outright repeal of Section 230 might not kill any company of their scale.
After all, they have plenty of money in the bank and perhaps could adapt over time to all the additional costs of beefed-up monitoring, censorship of content, and the many more lawsuits they’d have to defend against.
(This combined House version is also called the “FOSTA-SESTA package” because an earlier version of FOSTA did not have elements of SESTA in it, as I’ll discuss in a minute.
It’s worth reminding Congress that acronyms are supposed to make things easier to say and remember, not harder.) The House’s quick passage of its bill has set the stage for the Senate to vote on the mushed-together FOSTA-SESTA in the next few days—I say “mushed together” because the House bolted the broad pro-plaintiff provisions of SESTA onto FOSTA, leading to what one commentator has called “a FOSTA SESTA Frankenstein combination” that “takes the most plaintiff-favorable pieces of FOSTA and SESTA and creates a superset of both bills’ worst provisions.” Writ small, SESTA and FOSTA have always been ostensibly about sexual services offered on online classified-ads platforms like (expressly a target of the bill) and Craigslist (not officially a target)—especially if the services involve sex trafficking or victimization of children.
The second is something the Senate is set to consider in the next few days: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which would undermine Section 230 and its central role in giving birth to today’s internet. Rob Portman, in August of last year, the first version of SESTA was designed primarily to make it easier for plaintiffs and state attorneys general to sue If Congress follows through and passes this legislation, it not only will fail to achieve the bill’s stated goals—it also will fundamentally change, and arguably cripple, the internet you’ve grown to rely on these past two decades.If you’re going to call your members of Congress—and by all means you should—it’s worth understanding both problems.There are two legislative frameworks in conflict here.The first is the Communications Decency Act—specifically, Section 230 of it—which was passed in 1996.