Human Trafficking: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards
- January 27th, 2020
- in Capstone Commentary
by Elizabeth Railey
The implementation of new legislation, such as the FOSTA, has served to exacerbate the sex trafficking epidemic rather than to decrease its proclivity as intended. The release of the documentary I Am Jane Doe in February of 2017 exposed the online aspect of sex trafficking and ignited discussion about the lack of human rights protection provided by existing cyber legislation. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protected companies from liability due to third party publications, was widely criticized for not doing enough to protect victims of sex trafficking who were advertised and sold on websites such as Craigslist.com and Backpage.com. The New Yorker referred to Section 230 as a “legal shield” used by internet companies to evade responsibility of their role in enabling sex trafficking. This misconception that Section 230 grants automatic immunity was countered by Doe v. Facebook and others, where Facebook’s motions to dismiss were denied, as the plaintiff argued that Facebook was negligent in “undertaking to protect potential victims of sex trafficking, and for knowingly facilitating and benefitting from the sex trade” which was deemed not protected by Section 230.