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With SESTA/FOSTA, lawmakers failed to separate good intentions from bad law (eff.org)
715 points by jakeogh on Mar 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments



This is the real story:

"While we can’t speculate on the agendas of the groups behind SESTA, we can study those same groups’ past advocacy work. Given that history, one could be forgiven for thinking that some of these groups see SESTA as a mere stepping stone to banning pornography from the Internet or blurring the legal distinctions between sex work and trafficking."

Too many laws in America are stalking horses for restricting, not just commercial sexual activity, but all unapproved sexual activity. And the people who'd be doing the approving don't look like people I want in charge of my or my kid's sex life.

Child pornography and sex trafficking are both real, serious, problems. We should deal with them, not work to make it harder for sex workers and horny teenagers. But for a lot of the pressure groups in this area, the second thing is _their actual goal_.


In more sane high income countries, New Zealand, parts of Australia, the UK, et. al, prostitution is legal and regulated. If sex workers get into trouble, there are places and people they can go to get help. It at least attempts to be a legitimate industry.

In America, we have parts of Nevada and that's it. Filming a sex act and paying for it is legal (if you do your due diligence and make sure you have all the right paperwork, a good lawyer, and for good measure you should probably only film in California and Florida -- it's why there are so few industries who can afford the lawyers to do porn, but that's another issue entirely...)

The right way to deal with sex trafficking is to make it legal for people to do what they want with sex/their bodies, create as safe a sex-work industry as you can, and make it more difficult for illegitimate people in the sex industry to work.

This just takes me back to the Child Safety Protection Act of 1994. Over a decade later we're fighting the same bullshit.


I'm wasn't aware of the UK having legal and/or regulated sex workers.

The closest I'm aware of is that Leeds has the first (and only?) "official" red light district, and my understanding was that that's more a case of the police not asking or prosecuting rather than it actually being allowed or legal.

(There's plenty of discussion to be had over whether we should or not, this reply is more of a "oh really, do we?" sorta comment).


Sex work is perfectly legal in the UK, subject to certain restrictive conditions.

You cannot work in a "brothel" (i.e. not under the same roof as another sex worker), you cannot have a paid "pimp" (arguably not even to do the accounts or to make sure you are safe), you cannot solicit in a public place.

As you say, sometimes police will not enforce these rules, but other times they may use the threat of criminalisation to coerce sex workers.

Sex workers typically advocate for the "New Zealand model" of full decriminalisation - which is understood to be safer for sex workers.


As it turns out, countries with legalized prostitution have higher levels of illegal sex trafficking (the real kind, where people are forced into it as well). This is one of those areas where the rubber of libertarianism meets the road of reality. If you really want to curb sex trafficking, the best way to do it is to go after the demand side: decriminalize prostitutes, but punish pimps and johns severely.


> As it turns out, countries with legalized prostitution have higher levels of illegal sex trafficking (the real kind, where people are forced into it as well).

The extremely small numbers of countries involved and the methods that exist of estimating the actual magnitude make it very hard to do any of (1) control for potential confounding factors, (2) be confident in the correlation even assuming no confounding factors and accuracy in the figures, (3) be sure there are not systematic measurement biases (resulting in higher count to actual number ratios with legalized prostitution) distorting the results, or (4) be sure that the measured differences are real even absent systematic bias.

(3) is perhaps especially important because a central thesis of the advocacy of legalization as a means to fight trafficking is that it makes trafficking more detectable by breaking the apparent or actual shared interest of perpetrators and victims in concealing sex trafficking when prostitution is illegal. (One sided decriminalization also aims to do this, but arguably stigmatizes and marginalizes all participants in prostitution of any kind in much the same way as criminalization, even though it only penalizes one side.)


How does "punishing pimps and johns" help prostitutes? It still forces them to fight the law every time they work, because no prostitute is going to get clients if they don't conceal them.


If a pimp or client beats or threatens a prostitute, she can go to the cops with no fear because her work doesn't warrant criminal prosecution. As it is, prostitutes are kept in line because they have no one to turn to when they are abused by their clients or pimps.


It transfers power from the pimps to prostitutes by radically shifting the terms of trade in cases of conflict.

Note that this is policy being tried in India to fight corruption--don't penalize giving bribes, just taking them. Now every bribe taker is at risk of being reported and the reporter is not at risk.


And why lump Johns in with pimps? Because nobody will defend a John and it will help the prison industry the same way drug users do.


One should look at the history behind why certain currently banned obscenity is banned, and what the goals of the groups were who originally pushed the ban.

>Given that history, one could be forgiven for thinking that some of these groups see SESTA as a mere stepping stone to banning pornography from the Internet

This is one of their main goals.

>blurring the legal distinctions between sex work and trafficking

I think this has largely been achieved.


> I think this has largely been achieved.

Definitely true, and it's worth noting that crackdowns on 'trafficking' and 'abetting' sex work in the US consistently undermine not sex work but safe sex work.

- Acts like "renting an apartment out for a sex worker" become abetting, which drives sex work to happen on the street and at client's residences - the places where serious violence are most likely.

- Any attempt at collaboration, like sex workers sharing the cost of private security or hygienic supplies, can be reclassified as a form of trafficking. (The tortured legal logic is that "you give me $10 and I buy paper towels for us both" constitutes taking money from a sex worker and enabling their business, and therefore trafficking.)

- When Washington, D.C. attempted to crack down on sex work, women carrying condoms were arrested or forced to throw them away - a move which did nothing to prevent trading sex for money, but effectively undermined safety and disease prevention.

- When the government moved against Backpage, quite a lot of sex workers were deeply upset. Because the website didn't make sex work happen, it helped it happen safely, allowing workers to choose their clients before meeting them in person.

Over and over again, we see that anti-trafficking laws are actually used to marginalize sex work and destroy any possibility of a safe, healthy, or voluntary environment for the workers. At a certain point, it looks like the scenario of vulnerable sex workers who face constant violence is actually being driven by these laws that punish any worker who tries to live a better life.


Right but you have to address the solution which is proposed by the authors of these laws -- don't be a sex worker. It's not exactly a secret that the goal is to outlaw any kind of sex work but you don't get anywhere punishing the victims so you go after people trying to legitimize it.

They view sex work as fundamentally abusive and degrading, something that no one should even consider as an option, and therefore needs to be illegal so that police can intervene -- just like organ harvesting, suicide, and a lot of drug laws. Then you make the punishment for facilitating it in any way steep as a deterrent.


I agree, and I didn't mean to downplay that.

My concern is that even within a framework where all sex work is objectionable, these are bad laws. If they made voluntary sex work harder, they'd be successes within that frame. But they don't - they leave the basic transaction untouched, and only undermine worker safety from disease and assault.

The situation is actually very similar with drugs. A law that reduced voluntary, non-addictive use would upset some people and please others. But the laws we actually have aren't a success even if you think all drug use is immoral. Crackdowns on supply haven't reduced use, but have increased prices and violence while lowering purity. Crackdowns on drug trafficking haven't reduced use, but have, though the iron law of prohibition, driven a shift to harder and deadlier drugs. And restriction of paraphernalia hasn't reduced use, but has pushed users to unsafe practices like sharing and reusing needles.

Deterrent effects are real, though they're exceptionally weak in these cases; sex and drugs have some of the most inelastic demand outside of food and water. But my concern is that these laws aren't actually deterrents against any step essential for the transaction. They're entirely deterrents against incidental features that make the transaction safer or healthier, and so rather than reducing the behavior they simply reduce safety.


> I think this has largely been achieved.

Indeed, “combating sex trafficking” seems to already be a euphemism for cracking down on sex work of all kinds.


“Combating sex trafficking” is also a euphemism for cracking down on free speech on the internet, privacy, and small competitors to the big two internet firms. In the same week, we’ve also gotten the cloud act, and widely expanded censorship on youtube.

The big two seem to welcome these changes: google lobbied in support of at least some of this, while zuckerberg says he’s ok with expanded regulation of facebook.

Reglatory capture is being used to lock down our industry (and, maybe democracy) before our very eyes.


>>blurring the legal distinctions between sex work and trafficking

>I think this has largely been achieved.

The text of the bill makes this obvious; whatever the public rhetoric, the legal text talks about prostitution, period. No qualifications regarding consent or exploitation.


That's nothing unique to legislation surrounding sex. Rebranding creationism to "intelligent design" and "teach the controversy" are great examples of disingenuous legislation attempting to create precedent and chip away at at issues in the background. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that things like literacy tests and poll taxes were such examples. It's standard fare for the course in politics. Law is one of those areas where the "slippery slope" argument does actually reflect reality.


I think if you want to have a classical non-dying civilization as is known from history, you have to restrict sexuality and force desirable men to keep a single wife and vice versa. It might sound silly and not modern, but the history and its established norms can point out an "algorithm" that preserved continuation of humanity, despite how horrible it might seem and how taxing it always was. A question is if our technological advancements are sufficient to sustain artificial rules that would be otherwise eliminated by evolution in natural environment, or if it falls apart like all previous attempts to deviate from a known "stable" model passed by traditions of what worked before. Not sure I want to be a guinea pig for social engineers either.

See what Tinder did to dating; nobody can have any illusion they are getting a "premium" faithful partner and it pushes the attractiveness/transaction narrative and quick disposability to most intimate relationships. Not a way to build a stable civilization, rather a hyper-competitive cruel society where nothing is ever enough.

Unless these warts are addressed by a proper patch, our civilization has no future (IMO). I can wonder about motivations of those groups, whether it is really continuation of civilization, or just taking advantage of usual biological idealistic attitude of males to work hard for carrot-and-stick motivations in a form of a woman they desire, and harvesting that energy for their own selfish reasons, painting it white as necessary for everybody.


> I think if you want to have a classical non-dying civilization as is known from history, you have to restrict sexuality and force desirable men to keep a single wife and vice versa.

If we're talking about what's known from history, this is total nonsense. Polygamy was permitted in China into the 20th century. China was the best place in the world by a whole host of metrics up to about the 17th century. It is still known now for the cultural stability it's displayed for the past couple millennia.

What did you mean by "classical non-dying civilization"?


Polygamy has issues with excess males that aren't able to mate due to high-status males having their "harems", leading to very violent outbursts as those disadvantaged males don't have any outlet for their energy and society basically doesn't care about them beyond slaving away. China was also pretty much decaying society, which was perfectly utilized by British during Opium Wars. The typical mindset in China was to keep their old, dysfunctional ways, and add western technological advancements without replicating the conditions which allowed these to be created first, a meta-algorithm that killed Qing dynasty and that lasts until today. These days the effects of unoccupied males can be seen in the Middle East. Is that a model for your perfect stable and just civilization?


OT.

WRT Opium Wars I always found the casualty figures astonishing:

UK: 69

China: 18,000-20,0000

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Opium_War


Polygamy and proximity to the end of a civilization would be a interesting scatter plot.


How do you think that would work? Whatever you mean by "end of a civilization", it's going to have nearly zero effect on polygamy. Polygamy is a marriage practice that people will do, or not do, according to their culture; changes of government / technology / etc. don't change it.

Going back up to my original example, you see polygamy practiced in China in the warring states period (ca. 500 - 200 BC), in the early Han (ca. 200 BC - 0), and the later Han (ca. 0 - 200 AD), and the three kingdoms period (ca. 200 - 300), and the Tang dynasty (ca. 600 - 900), and the Song dynasty (960 - 1279), and the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368; wasn't even a Chinese government), and the Ming dynasty (ca. 1368-1644), and the Qing dynasty (1644-1912; also not a Chinese government. The Qing actually outlawed foot binding, though this was not effective.), as well as through all the other intermediate periods not mentioned in that list.

However you want to count the end of a civilization, there won't be any relationship at all to polygamy practice; one changes and the other doesn't.


How to get enough data though? :( I don't want to simulate miserable universes just to get that data and I certainly hope we don't live in one...


You can say the same about most things that happen currently. historically, civilizations that survived did not use computers, for instance. Thus, if you want to avoid socital collapse, you should enforce that nobody uses computers.


Yes, I think it's an experiment. I am more-less certain without technology this approach would fall apart in 1-2 generations due to human nature; the question for me is if current/future tech is sufficient or we will mess it all up. Warning signs are there - you have plenty of males that decided it's no longer worth it to be involved with society as they are denied females due to their low attractiveness, so if this continues, we might be already past the peak of civilization as more and more potentially productive elements of society no longer see any point (as sex is one of primary motivations for most men to do anything).

It's easier if you restrict access to sex to males, make rules that almost everybody can get it at some point in a committed relationship, instead of having only the most attractive males having it all with most females and the rest waiting for leftovers, and to drive any aberrations from this ideal underground, out of sight. I believe that's how past civilizations worked and in general people didn't talk openly about their side affairs and society built guilt/shaming wall to publicly scorn anyone that was doing it outside private sphere and didn't keep secrecy/discretion. We call it repression now, though it likely had its evolutionary reason as those rules survived and attempts to get rid of them vanished.


> we might be already past the peak of civilization as more and more potentially productive elements of society no longer see any point (as sex is one of primary motivations for most men to do anything)

Men aren't the only potentially productive elements of society, though. "Females" are real people, not abstract objects which exist only to provide sex and motivation for men. (And if sex really is the primary motivation for men to do anything, maybe we ought to have more women running things…)


You are saying that they don't have girlfriends because they are ugly and therefore we should limit access to porn (which is mostly targeted on men instead of on women)? How will his low access to paid or causual tinder sex make her consider him more attractive?

Also I am very strongly agains paradigm where "everybody can get sex in commited relationship". It is wrong, because it would punish good people who end up with abusive, cruel, overly controlling, violent ot simply very difficult people. (Of both genders of course).

There is no and should not be entitlement to have partner.


I wrote that previous functioning civilizations purposefully restricted male sexuality, enabled utilizing energy that would be otherwise evaporated by sex into building society and its civilization structures instead. So that might be intent of some groups pushing these changes. Other groups might be pushing it for moral reasons, but those rarely had any tangible effects.

Whether you like it or not, it is politically incorrect or going against the Zeitgeist, males still do most of the difficult, manual work that keeps the world running and is invisible to most women. There is a very little hope females would step up to the challenge as what we see so far is cherry picking high-income jobs isolated from crushing challenges of manual work and heavy robotics is not there yet. So if you tell those males they aren't desirable, they can't be entitled to have a partner, you allow them free access to cheap sex/sensory satisfaction, gaming etc. what you'll get is they just wouldn't care about work anymore, live minimalist lifestyles, working only to pay their immediate expenses, your society will be on a path to decline. By removing this "carrot" of a desirable woman, you neutered one of primary motivations of males to do anything at all. As they see 5% top guys getting all the girls and girls being fine with it during their desirable ages, and being interested in them only when their desirability wanes, and that only for financial reasons, why would they even bother being involved with society? So they simply drop out, do whatever they like, don't contribute to taxes, don't do any menial work, refuse to be slaves and disengage from society. I see it on my cousin, who was a top graduate of the most prestigious university of my country, and since graduation he is not working (a few years already), disgusted by women, and playing some stupid online games all day, without any way to poke him to do anything at all as it all seems pointless to him.

So please keep closing your eyes, let's have another completely lost generation and see how our civilization tanks in front of our eyes.

I would suggest you to study reinforcement learning, which even if using really stupid models, could show you how small changes in rewards can completely reshape environments, not mentioning complete removal of rewards, as is happening these days.


Wtf are you about with worker class men? They are not ugly or something, plenty of them are attractive. That would be first thing. It is great that they have tons of jobs as you claim and if you are right, their salaries will go up which would be great. But economically, there is lack of those jobs currently. It is not worker class men fault obviously, it is economy. They play games because they don't have jobs. Not because they are too lazy without perspective of sex.

I cant believe your opinion of men is so low. And if you see your existence as a slave, but with sex then it is ok to be slave? Men in history did a lot of things, good and bad, for their own purposes, not just in exchange for a sex. By all statistics, Americans spend more time in work then ever and men on average more then women.

No being entitled to partner is not same as not being desirable. It primary means that world does not own you a partner and the potential partner has right to not be in relationship with you. You might be desirable to someone else. (And some guys are really too dangerous or sociopathic to be dated.)

Your cousin is not working class men looking for hard labor job, his issue is not that women don't want working class men. University men don't do physically demanding work. But his parents should either find him counseling for depression or alternatively stop enabling his lifestyle (depending on what is cause of his passivity). By your definition should be among top percent - majority of population does not have degree. Besides, it sounds like you want girlfriend for him so that girlfriend partly becomes his mom to force him to work and partly uses sex to blackmail him into work. Wtf for both of them.

Choosing mate for a girl purely on how much he earns and whether he is hard worker is receipt for disaster for her. It just does not even sound as if women were humans from your analysis, you treat them like a chocolate prize cake.

You don't care at all about what she can achieve (and she is significantly less likely to spend all her time playing games), she is literally just piece of meat for him to have sex between wold of warcraft raids - in the hope that he will work afterwards.


> she is literally just piece of meat

Huh? Wow, I am speechless... Are you sure you wanted to type that?

Imagine an artist with a muse. She occupies his mind, drives his creativity, unreachability of her perfection inspires hard work and progress, creating works of wonder. Now that artist finally gets intimate with his muse, faces the reality and brutal disappoinment with the illusion that was driving him, making him incapacitated for a while. So the carrot in the form of an ideal woman was responsible for some outstanding work that wouldn't happen otherwise; the moment the goal he hoped for was reached, the illusion was gone, and the well of artistic inspiration in the form of this muse was dry. Yet, something remained from this - a work of art, something the whole society benefits from.

Try to apply this throughout the society to understand how great works were completed; this was one of a few main motivations (of course there were other ones for different works).


Yes, I wanted to type that. Women are not muses nor perfect, they are people and artist will be shocked that they fart, get angry, sweat and disagree with him. The artist made mistake when he lost contact with reality and replaced real human by unreal vision. This story has nothing with how women are like and everything with young man being lied to.

I care less about his painting then about women who will become target of his wrath when he gets confronted with reality. And even he would be happier if he never went the illusion way.

Plenty of productive men are not like the artist in that story.


This is ludicrous.

Traditions, as myths, are stories we tell ourselves. That is, social engineered stuff that stick around, because people care to keep them around, for various reasons (some, only for the ludicrous reason that "people told it that way before, we shall not change a bit of it").

Your civilization, our civilization, _has_ no future. Not one civilization on earth has had a future that spanned more than a few millennia. History is full of only that: civilization, as people, appear, grow, and die into something else.

They all evolved, changed, disappeared, what have you.


I agree with you in the broad sense. Social experimentation is dangerous and despite our rapid technological progress over the last 100 years, people are still governed by biological, not technological, forces. Many in society have lost sight of that today -- not uncommon when luxury and wealth abounds and people come disconnected from the hard realities they're forced to recognize when they're fighting for daily survival.

I have a few nits. Due to some lesser social sicknesses, polygamy gets a bad rap in the West. It's not always the right course and like everything else, there is the potential for abuse, but it is a normal and functional component in most pre-Roman/non-Christian social structures.

Also, national law is the wrong place to codify such intimate issues. Self-sufficiency is important along all axes, including moral and social ones. The community needs to be empowered and entrusted with the ability to make these standards on its own. Federal law is a very dangerous place for such things to wind up.

Anyway, this isn't really the right venue for this type of discussion, but I thought I'd lend some moral support since I expect you'll get eviscerated for this.


What exactly is the flaw in the system described in the book 'Sex At Dawn' that likely flourished prior to the introduction of agriculture? In a modern incarnation it would basically boil down to shared parenting of children and fluid relationship statuses. The point of monogamy was to establish certainty over bloodline in a situation where a male would be significantly disadvantaged by expending resources raising another mans child. That's irrelevant now. We're not bouncing from famine to famine, racked with plagues and wars, etc. Things are quite a bit better than they were at the advent of agriculture (which nearly ended the species but also brought many advances - monogamy among the former rather than latter).


The main issue IMO will be that there will be undesirable males (70%) and desperate females (>35 age) without any chance for a stable partner (look at Japan, it's in full swing there; put your otaku into researching this ;-) ). Also, the system in that book is just a fantasy, a speculation how it could have been, not a historical fact. Biologically males are still naturally inclined to seek faithful, young and pretty virgins they don't share (despite cuckoo "education" trying to change that), and females seek the highest status/income/excitement males they can capture. This might be result of evolutionary algorithm at play over a very long period of time and it's unlikely this would change anytime soon, unless we have means to directly reprogram our brains for different rewards.


There are so many things wrong with this.

But ok, if you assumed that "survival of our civilization" equals the survival of certain biological lineages, wouldn't the most efficient solution be to increase research into in-vitro fertilisation and synthetic sperm and remove men from the equation completely?


+ artificial uterus and 0-day support systems, and we are living in a dystopia with baby factories and nameless masses.

If you are into optimization algorithms, what we observe in the nature might be one of those. Messing with this optimization might get us to states we never wanted.


Ah, but

> ...you have to restrict sexuality and force desirable men to keep a single wife and vice versa.

is not a dystopia but just a necessary evil.

It's a subtle difference. I understand.


> blurring the legal distinctions between sex work and trafficking.

It seems like they are succeeding already: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9kgwnp/porn-on-go...


Perhaps the anti-sex crowd would stop being the vanguard of the anti-trafficking movement, if anyone else took up the cause with more fervor.


> the groups behind SESTA

Which groups are you referring to?


What exactly is the intention behind this bill? Do they hope the demand for prostitution will drop, and thus trafficker revenues and incentives? That seems ridiculous, as demand for prostitution existed throughout human history and across civilizations, mainly as a cultural artifact.

So we expect the services to simply shift to use other facilitators. Do they hope the new facilitators will be better for the victims? That, again, seems misguided: we know for a fact that traditional, pre-internet facilitators, like pimps and underground brothels, are exceptionally damaging for victims, physically, emotionally and economically. Any underground, high friction market, will have large margins for the traders (traffickers) and make the producers worse off.

Is the intention to drag prostitutes into legality, in supervised establishments where they can be protected by the state? Shouldn't that start with a nation-wide ban of anti-brothel laws that effectively force prostitutes to work underground?

So what exactly is the point of this bill? Denying independent prostitutes autonomy and forcing them in the hands of traffickers? Did they even ask themselves these questions? Do they even understand the purpose is harm-reduction across a whole at-risk social class, not some crusade against a Hollywood vision of innocence abused?


I genuinely don't think any of these questions were asked or discussed in any real fashion.

It really sounds like this was touted as a way to reduce prostitution and sex trafficking and nobody involved ever questioned if it would really do that, because simply questioning a bill like this can get your name in the news about how much you support sex trafficking. And that news story will never go away, 10 years from now people will be bringing that story up about how you once opposed a bill designed to reduce sex trafficking, and how can anyone trust someone that once supported something so vile?


This is a really dangerous trend that needs to end ASAP.

With this reasoning, one can slip anything into a bill with a nice name. This has already done a lot of harm.

(After all, how can someone oppose the PATRIOT act when the nation is in danger? etc)


> What exactly is the intention behind this bill? Do they hope the demand for prostitution will drop, and thus trafficker revenues and incentives? That seems ridiculous, as demand for prostitution existed throughout human history and across civilizations, mainly as a cultural artifact.

I'm not a supporter of this bill, but to play devil's advocate: this isn't about eliminating prostitution, which as you said is impossible. It's not about all or nothing, it's about degrees.

Supporters of the bill think that by making prostitution more difficult, it will be more rare. That doesn't contradict what opponents of the bill worry about, that it will make sex work more dangerous: it's possible it will decrease the amount and also increase the risk.

It's similar to the topic of legalizing drugs: for example, it's very possible that legalizing heroin will increase usage (easier to buy, lower prices) but reduce risk (regulated product, less criminal involvement).

It's a tradeoff in both cases, and obviously reasonable people can disagree on whether it's worth it or not.


>Supporters of the bill think that by making prostitution more difficult, it will be more rare.

Is there any evidence to that? The best the legislation can hope for is going to pre-Internet levels. Are they actually lower?


This is a way to shut down any unmoderated online community using a troll army. The admins on the chans have been warning about this. Notice how this got passed the same week that youtube started banning legal gun and conspiracy videos, etc. It's part of a big online purge against free speech.

There are many unfortunate casualties in the current U.S political cold civil war that's been going on since the last election. They are seeking to eliminate anything that could lead to further unexpected political outcomes by going scorched earth on all kinds of online speech.


> This is a way to shut down any unmoderated online community using a troll army.

Which is nearly every online community. The economics of accurate moderation to legal standards are completely unrealistic.

People see hundred billion dollar companies and assume they're swimming in cash, but most of them have something like ten billion in annual revenue against a billion users. The total is large but the amount per user is not.

There is zero possibility of paying someone with the legal knowledge to make accurate balancing decisions to read and evaluate the legality of every user's posts. And short of that you're going to have huge numbers of false positives or false negatives.

Pass a law that prohibits false negatives and the result is false positives through the roof. Past the point that it will shutter legitimate forums.


It is worth adding that both sides of this political cold war are actively attacking the democratic process. These bills were largely driven by the political establishment, but remember Trump’s response to the recent shootings: He urged everyone to err on the side if reporting suspicious behavior to federal law enforcement.


I noted the same thing earlier; Both Reddit and Youtube started banning stuff while the freedom of speech people were focused on Mark Zuckerburgs statement and Count Dankula verdict.


The social dynamics of these types of laws can be traced back to the witch hunts of the Inquisition.

It's more about perceived sin reduction and dogma, rather than harm reduction and logic.


Beyond that, it's not even really about sexual exploitation at all. That's just a stalking horse for the real purpose of this bill -- to begin the process of eroding and destroying section 230 and normalizing the censorship already taking over the internet.


Indeed. The witch hunts of the Inquisition were in this same vein as well. A major driving force was that of censoring anyone who did not adhere to the official dogmas and doctrines of the state: heretics, blasphemers, etc.


I think it's a confluence of multiple factors. First, lawmakers pass so many bills that they likely get desensitized to the effects of the bills. There is a disconnect between the bill enacting process and the effects on the ground, similar to the "bureaucratic homicide" that occurs during war. Secondly, the types of people that get into office are not the types that get decision paralysis, and are often further along the sociopathy spectrum than most. A third factor is that, other than for a few exceptions like Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, most vote in a block. And if a powerful legislator has twisted religious ideas about prostitutes needing to be punished on earth even before they get to hell, then they can take advantage of this group behavior and get their legislation passed.


Very insightful. I think this bears additional emphasis.

I think you hit the nail on the head. As a society, we've relied on people making shallow surface level laws to correct deep, tangled problems for too long.

Our system of laws is in dire need of a good pruning back and rearchitecting. IANAL, but I have been doing legal research for a while now, and when I'm reading law, it is very clear to me at least that when you start looking at law as something systematic, you run into diagrams that would make any system architect have a heart attack.

The structures I end up at show a lack of "feed-forward" thinking in their implementations. Namely being structured with little or no thought to consequence, or guidance for interpretation or application built in.

For the non-techies who may not be able to understand my comment, imagine implementing something complex like an internal combustion engine, but never writing a manual or communicating it's specifications. That's what I'm getting at.

And yes, I'm aware that the legislature specifies executive branch entities to do the administrative law elucidation. However, there are far fewer release valves for bad law in those cases or means for changing overly restrictive guidance. Entities are given carte blanche to pass unchallengable "iron fist" level directives that have no recourse EXCEPT an already over-taxed legislature.


The intention? Let members of congress brag that they're "doing something" about "sex trafficking." Opposition to "sex trafficking" is a hot button issue in right wing religious congregations these days.

I fear this is very much like anti-immigrant fervor. It's important for legislators to look like they're "doing something." But it's just as important for the measures they take to be ineffective. Why? because systemic hypocrisy.

This measure (along with anti-immigrant measures) creates / maintains an underclass of workers with very few legal rights. Because these measures are wrapped in a mantle of fake righteousness, they satisy both the need to "do something" and the need to keep that underclass going.


Pretty hilarious/depressing WaPo coverage from when the Communications Decency Act was struck down in the lower court (before it got to the Supreme Court): https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1996/06/13/c....

Love this quote:

> But a leading proponent of the legislation, Bruce Taylor of the National Law Center for Children and Families, said yesterday that the court "jumped off the bridge" with its "absolute" decision. Saying "the technology overwhelmed the court," Taylor predicted the Supreme Court would reject the ruling. "They haven't got a prayer of having this upheld on appeal," he said.

These twits are going to win eventually, just slowly.


> These twits are going to win eventually, just slowly.

This is basically my expectation for how all privacy and legal freedom end on the internet. It's easier to pass a law than repeal it, and so this stuff will get done by throwing up slight variants of the same bills over and over until they get through Congress and the courts. Constitutionality can be ensured by getting lucky with wording and a friendly court. Passage comes from simply wearing down the opposition, who are drastically less well-funded and organized than the advocates.

I honestly have no idea what can be done about it. Internet freedoms work like a ratchet, and even winning 95% of the fights means that everything gets worse every year and never gets better.


These twits presumably spent two decades drumming up support for their cause while the tech community failed to give an answer to how the Internet won't affect society negatively. The results are well deserved.


We shouldn't have to give an answer as to how freedom of speech and freedom of association will affect things negatively.


If aren't prepared to argue your point don't expect people to take you seriously. There are no lack of opinions on the Internet nor in the world. If you can't justify your own despite the ever larger resources available to do so chances are you are wrong. The reason why people on HN don't isn't because they don't have to, it's because they can't. That is why they are drawn to places where people agree with them so they can sit and "not understand what is happening" without facing their own ignorance.


So what you're saying is a vastly less rich and organized populace was never able to communicate their arguments in a concentrated enough manner so that Congress would care? Who would've thought.

This argument is stupid. The fundamental freedoms that the internet provide to the global community are too important to be taken away by old lawmakers with no understanding of the way Cyberspace works.


"Tech" is one of the richest industries in history. It has literally enabled people like Elon Musk to create their own private space programs, something most nation states are unable to do. It is also the industry that, again literally, is based on building systems to gather, present and organize people and information.

People in "tech" overall does not want to study other subjects than computer science, they do not want publish publications with other people, change the way the Internet works (in their own direction) nor organize with other people.

There is very little indicating that the support for free speech in "tech" is any more substantial than any industry's support for what serves them at the moment.


You're conflating the tech industry (what's with the constant air quotes) with the kind of people who are concerned about these laws and the effects of the dangerous precendent they set.

>People in "tech" overall does not want to study other subjects than computer science

People in a field are fans of that field and want to study it deeply? Surprises me for sure.


> what's with the constant air quotes

Because I am using the word vaguely to largely mean tech culture.

> People in a field are fans of that field and want to study it deeply? Surprises me for sure.

It is not a surprise to me. I am the one arguing that people don't actually think it is that important. Because usually when you think something is important you show an interest in it.

There are people interested in technology that also study ethics, law, psychology or even just things like information systems which are subjects that raises these questions. But those people are few and far between and tends to have a more complex view of the issue.


>These twits presumably spent two decades drumming up support for their cause while the tech community failed to give an answer to how the Internet won't affect society negatively.

It is impossible to prove that something doesn't exist, and more so to prove that something will not exist in the future.

The burden of proof is entirely on the party that claims existence - in this case, of harfmul effects of the Internet on society.

>The results are well deserved.

Hello victim blaming.


Congress is a bunch of idiots. Online ads are probably the #1 spot for sex slaves to be found and returned home. Instead they drive everything to dark nets and offline methods of acquiring clientele, and thus making it harder to police and save lives. Not to mention all the freedoms this can potentially take away.

I'm against sex traffickers as much as the next guy, but this is not the way to stop them.


> Online ads are probably the #1 spot for sex slaves to be found and returned home.

I'd never heard of this. I'm not trying to call you out or anything, but do you have any sources or further reading? I'd be interested in seeing how this works.



Thank you!


A YC (2015 I think) backed company did just this. Collated Backpage ads to assist Law Enforcement in tracking down child sex slaves. At the time they were called Rescue Forensics and were acquired a year or so ago.


> Congress is a bunch of idiots

I mean, not all...

https://www.c-span.org/video/?442912-6/senator-wyden-online-...


Welp, this is the (big) straw that breaks the camels back. While I've been somewhat slowly easing out of having my hosting services in the US, I don't think I want to even have business with anyone HQ'd in the US anymore.

What if someone phone's them up and says I host sex trafficking? Or I do something else illegal in the US that is fine in the EU or elsewhere?

I simply don't want the risk of the US gov'd or law interfering with me or my business.


Where are you going?

Where can Internet refugees go?


I'm moving all my stuff into Europe. My main Server is hosted at OVH which has no HQ in the US (OVH in the US is a separate corporation specific to US customers of OVH).

I'm moving my mail to Protonmail, away from my current mail provider (which I was planning to do anyway once the contract ran out since they are against net-neutrality but I'll speed things up now)

My DNS is also currently hosted in the US, via Cloudflare and another provider. I will move those into OVH too but I'll have to wait for atleast two contracts to run out for that too.

Considering the GDPR, I guess the EU is the current bastion of privacy and a free-er internet.


With the passing of the CLOUD act, moving your server or email outside the US likely won't help. See https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/02/cloud-act-dangerous-ex...


I'm not in the US so if I'm pulling my stuff out of the US, I don't believe the CLOUD act will bother me.


Nowhere, just use end-to-end encryption.

The tools for building apps with it already exist: https://hackernoon.com/so-you-want-to-build-a-p2p-twitter-wi...


I doubt it'll help since the bill makes it problematic to facilitate any illegal behavior. So E2EE won't help, they'll just slap you for facilitating stuff.


It is like Schrodinger's cat, you don't know if it is illegal or not if you can't decrypt it.


If someone finds out someone did do something illegal with it (obtaining plaintext through various means or someone is being convicted by other means) then you're definitely in for it.


Then every single P2P host will have to take it down, which might take a long while with how slow DMCA/whatever takes.

Myself, personally, I'd comply with legal takedowns because I don't want to get thrown in prison. But that doesn't mean it won't be exceptionally hard for things to be removed from a cryptographically secure P2P network.


Maybe float your servers in international waters or boost them into orbit?

There's a decent chance bad US Internet laws will be struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds, but most other places never had protections for those freedoms to begin with.

On the other hand, if you're going to be an outlaw anyway, you might as well do it somewhere where your bribes will actually buy you some measure of protection.


If you're in space or international waters you have to due so under the auspices of some particular country and obey its laws. Otherwise you have no recourse if someone comes and takes your stuff.


OTOH, you're moving to international waters because you think its likely if you remain in most countries, someone will come and take your stuff.


Germany


Not really, no. You can't even torrent there without getting threatening letters in the mail. Also wifi/responsibility issues. Copyright nonsense is running strong in Germany. There are freeer countries than that WRT internet freedom in EU.


I know people who have gotten those letters in the US; the companies that send them are contracted by major media corps and don’t care about where you live.


Will you get letters for torrenting legally, or only when you download copyrighted stuff?


Only copyrighted stuff and sometimes its bogus, so the best turn is to have a lawyer friend, write a nice letter and never hear from them again.


Not to Europe, I am afraid. Europe is a bureaucratic shit-show with a big-brother more than willing to regulate what you say, how you say it, how to listen, how to remember and forget and soon how to think...

Just watching the GDPR mess makes you understand Brexit.


What? GDPR is for avoiding Cambridge Analytica/Facebook disatasters, Equifax breaches and other cases when companies collect data that they dont need store it like there is no tomorrow and at the end dont give a shit when people get screwed over by a 3rd party. Great Britain has the worst laws in the EU when it comes to internet regulations. People are jailed for funny videos while the GHCQ hacks corporations, and they have the most invasive security laws at all.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-43478925

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Socialist

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/217478-uk-introduces-law...

What are you talking about???


> GDPR is for avoiding Cambridge Analytica/Facebook disasters

And SESTA/FOSTA is for avoiding human trafficking.

Complex far reaching laws often don't end up having the result they were said to be intended for.


> People are jailed for funny videos

It’s not like most of the mainland European countries are better in this regard. Few of them have strong legal protections for free expression, and some of them (like Germany) have explicit political censorship laws just like the UK.


The UK has made all appearances of going forward with GDPR principles independently of the EU, and as with almost everything in terms of EU regulations, we will likely have to comply with GDPR whether we stay inside or outside of the EU formal structures especially given its extra-territorial enforcement. The UK already has a lot of data protection legislation (more so than the US), and is making no indication of wishing to repeal.

GDPR will be a pain for a lot of businesses, but seems to be well designed to protect citizens by to reducing abuses of surveillance by private companies like those in the news right now with Facebook.

GDPR is the appropriate response to decades of giving industry an opportunity to self regulate its data collection practices (the "cookie law" was a warning shot ignored by industry), which has evidently spectacularly failed should you open any broadsheet newspaper this morning.


Hosting sex trafficking websites is going to attract considerable attention if you do it in Europe too.


:%s/sex trafficking/mass shooting/g

:%s/gun control laws/internet censorship/g

--edit: before you reach for that downvote button - im not conflating the two crimes they are both depreaved and horrible in their own way. I am noting a high degree of symmetry in the reaction of a heavy-handed government 'take away the rights of everyone' to what is isolated incidents of horror.

In one case americans seems willing to relinquish their rights to the government in the name of safety.

In the other americans seems to consider this overreacting

yet to me they seem to have high degree of symmetry


> isolated incidents of horror.

They are not. They happen with such regularity that you can reliably estimate them per year. They are empirically preventable.


Are you talking about sex trafficking, mass shootings, deaths from alcohol related accidents, deaths from drug usage, sexual assault from drug usage, crimes committed by those on probation, crimes committed by people from certain cross sections of society, or crimes committed because we don't have a camera in every room of every house that is monitored?

Because most every bad crime out there can be reliably estimated and has ways of being prevented. The question is at what cost? We could prevent the vast majority of crimes committed by criminals released from prison by having all felonies punished by life without parole. But is that really reasonable? We could cut down on sexual abuse of children by outlawing any single adult from ever being alone with a child, regardless of relationship. But is that really reasonable?

And I highly suspect that there is no consensus on what liberties are acceptable to exchange for safety.


by "preventable" I presume you mean prevented by relinquishing all citizens rights and the rights of their descendents permanently to the government.

I'm not debating gun laws, Im pointing out how readily it seems people are willing to relinquish their rights in one case vs another which have remarkably high similarities.


No, just one right?


The one right which makes it possible to defend the rest; so in effect, all of them.


How can you keep illussion that you'll be able to defend anything with guns against US army? Because them you'll be fighting, because they are the actual guvnment. And these guys train every day how to kill people armed with guns without getting shot. And they got pretty good at that.


> How can you keep illussion that you'll be able to defend anything with guns against US army?

One would assume that should things get bad enough for an actual civil war, some percentage of military would defect rather than fight their own.

One might also look to recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Vietnam to see what a determined populace can do to resist.

Given there has already been one Civil War in US history, things don't look horribly great. It is also a very different country today now than it was then, so who knows how things would actually go.


> One would assume that should things get bad enough for an actual civil war, some percentage of military would defect rather than fight their own.

I'd say if US gov had a plan of oppressing US citizens they'd just ban guns first. It's kinda hard to start civil war over this.

So instead of civil war you'd have hundred or few hundreds nutjobs with guns vs. US Army who might not feel particularly supportive of civilians disobeying direct order to give away their guns. Obeying is kinda their favorite thing.

> One might also look to recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Vietnam to see what a determined populace can do to resist.

Let's look at more recent history of US military achievements:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-is...

You wan't to be on the loosing side of similar conflict?

> Given there has already been one Civil War in US history, things don't look horribly great. It is also a very different country today now than it was then, so who knows how things would actually go.

Last civil war was about right to own black people. They guys who really wanted to keep owning them actually managed to incite civil war, even had army with similar tech level and still lost. Can you imagine same thing happening about right to own guns?

The reason government lets you keep your guns is not that it's afraid of you. The reason is that it is not and doesn't mind all that much if some peasants die.


> I'd say if US gov had a plan of oppressing US citizens they'd just ban guns first. It's kinda hard to start civil war over this.

Which would itself be sure to spark widespread civil unrest, if not actual revolt. Even in the "reasonable European countries" compliance with bans[0] are comically bad.

> So instead of civil war you'd have hundred or few hundreds nutjobs with guns vs. US Army who might not feel particularly supportive of civilians disobeying direct order to give away their guns. Obeying is kinda their favorite thing.

That's a horrible characterization of the state of the US military. In case you weren't aware, there's a reason officers pledge to the Constitution and not the president.

> Let's look at more recent history of US military achievements:

Yeah, how long have we been bogged down in the Middle East? You want to live in a country with 10+ year long civil war? Nasty as politics are these days, you think it's just going to be "Gun Nut vs. US Military" - no, it's going to be "Gun Nut drags liberal gun ban supporter into the street and executes him." as well. It's not going to be some magical, nice, clean rout like you're implying.

> even had army with similar tech level and still lost.

The numbers weren't even close on the rebel side.

> Can you imagine same thing happening about right to own guns?

For all the talk of "hunter's rights" and "sportmans," the reason for the 2A is explicitly to fight governmental tyranny. It is so the common man can fight. The government revoking that right will easily spark mass violence.

> The reason government lets you keep your guns is not that it's afraid of you. The reason is that it is not and doesn't mind all that much if some peasants die.

Well, you're entitled to your opinion.

[0] - https://reason.com/archives/2012/12/22/gun-restrictions-have...


> Even in the "reasonable European countries" compliance with bans[0] are comically bad.

In Poland, country of 36 million citizens there are around 20-30 cases of homicide or attempted homicide with firearms per year and another 20-30 cases of causing bodily harm using firearm which might be shooting someone or just hitting him with a gun. So compliance must not be that bad.

> In case you weren't aware, there's a reason officers pledge to the Constitution and not the president.

And what's in the constitution about president and obeying him? Do? Do not? As you fancy?

> "Gun Nut drags liberal gun ban supporter into the street and executes him."

Sure. I just listed the sides that will be doing all the shooting, sniping, bombing, mortaring, drone-striking and gassing not all other collateral damage. You are right that it won't be nice or clean but it will be quick and remembered exactly the way US gov writes it down in history books.

> The government revoking that right will easily spark mass violence.

Did you notice how gov overreacted about occupy wall-street? Do you think how strong and fast or even preemptively will it react to possible armed movement that might want to oppose enacted law?

Best you can count on are small, split up pockets of resistance looking like crazies for the people outside.

> Well, you're entitled to your opinion.

As are you. I just have trouble understanding how can anyone think he can fight government of one of most advanced nation states with a gun.


> I'd say if US gov had a plan of oppressing US citizens they'd just ban guns first. It's kinda hard to start civil war over this.

They'd ban guns for people who can't prove citizenship, then for people who fail a citizenship test, and so on.

"It will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."


Exactly. Just look at how the US government quickly and easily wiped out all those insurgents in the Middle East. Oh wait... it's been a decade and a half since the attack on the World Trade Center, and they're still there making trouble.

If you're fighting the government head on in a conventional war, and the military sides with the government against the citizens, then of course you'll lose. So don't do that. Armed citizens defending themselves and their families on their own turf against modern militaries using asymmetric warfare techniques have actually proven pretty effective.

In any case, you're assuming an all-out civil war where the government has free reign to send in the military against its own citizens with no concern for political fallout, using whatever level of force is needed to achieve their objective. In practice they don't have that much freedom even when dealing with a foreign group intent on causing us harm. Under more realistic circumstances, the mere possibility of armed resistance serves as a major deterrent to tyranny vs. the ease with which unarmed civilians can be rounded up for "re-education".


> Exactly. Just look at how the US government quickly and easily wiped out all those insurgents in the Middle East.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-is...

Not sure about wiping them out but US got pretty good at killing them and not getting killed themselves in the process.

> Armed citizens defending themselves and their families on their own turf against modern militaries using asymmetric warfare techniques have actually proven pretty effective.

Examples? Preferably of last decade or two because modern military technology is ... well modern. And your future insurgency won't be countered even with today technology but future one.

> In any case, you're assuming an all-out civil war where the government has free reign to send in the military against its own citizens with no concern for political fallout, using whatever level of force is needed to achieve their objective. In practice they don't have that much freedom even when dealing with a foreign group intent on causing us harm.

If you own a gun to shoot your foot or spouse, government will happily restrict itself from interfering with your freedoms. Try to use it go gang up with few dozen of hundreds of citizens and oppose some tax regulation or something government actually cares about. You'll have FBI on your ass before you ramp up, and if that's not sufficient, yes, also military. And don't be so sure they'll restrict themselves then, especially if you fire even single shot at them. Even pointing your gun in their general direction could be enough to lift any restrictions.

> Under more realistic circumstances, the mere possibility of armed resistance serves as a major deterrent to tyranny vs. the ease with which unarmed civilians can be rounded up for "re-education".

I wonder why so many western countries don't descend into tyranny even though their citizens don't own guns.


>>Try to use it go gang up with few dozen of hundreds of citizens and oppose some tax regulation or something government actually cares about. You'll have FBI on your ass before you ramp up, and if that's not sufficient, yes, also military.

IIIRC the Bundys did EXACTLY that and US government is having a tough time convicting them.

>>I wonder why so many western countries don't descend into tyranny even though their citizens don't own guns.

Maybe because America acts as a guarantor of security via NATO and thousands of other ways?


> In one case americans seems willing to relinquish their rights to the government in the name of safety.

Actually, in one case, the lobbying groups are weak, and localized support in coastal areas. In other case, the lobbying groups are well organized, powerful, with a lot of support from constituents across the US.

Also, we (Americans) are stupid.

EDITED TO ADD: We (Humans) are stupid.


This is their tactic. Find edge case. Break the system massively in favor of themselves and donors while claiming to help said edge case, while most of the time not actually helping at all.

Edge case can be anything that gets people worked up. Child molestation, mass shootings, overt racism, sex trafficking, transgender, etc etc. It doesn't matter what your response is, the fact is people all have strong ones and are being manipulated because of it.

It's an adversarial attack vector on the entire nation.


Why is the right to skeet shoot with a military weapon in the same breath as forums for free speech? The splash damage of these two efforts isn’t remotely comparable.


What is a non-military weapon? If you want to have a meaningful discussion, please identify the types of guns you have a problem with, and why, and how you differentiate them from guns you don't have [as much of] a problem with, and how you intend to avoid running afowl (sorry I couldn't resist) of the 2nd amendment.

You think the splash damage of free speech isn't significant? It's less immediate, but more significant. How do you think we got into modern wars like Iraq and Syria if not for media-supported propaganda, i.e. speech?


I don’t think knowledge of particular gun types is relevant to my argument- I am saying that the side effects of banning a particular gun are smaller and far less profound than making the operators of internet platforms responsible for the speech of all users on their platform.

I agree with you that speech is more important! That’s why I am saying the side effects, the splash damage if you will, in limiting platforms where ordinary people can spread information because they might be used for sex trafficking, is not remotely comparable to banning a model of gun because it might be used to shoot a lot of people quickly.

The intended effects and effectiveness of the efforts aside, I think the potential for unintended side effects in FOSTA is of a completely different magnitude and nature.


You don't know what the side effects are because you don't know how an assault rifle is defined (it depends on which legislation you're talking about, there's no standard definition), and without proposing specific things to be banned, your proposal is just virtue signalling "I don't like assault weapons [even though I don't know what they are or how they're distinguished from handguns]."

Depending on the proposal, a ban on assault rifles is likely either:

- An ineffective nothingburger, targeting features that don't matter for lethality, that can easily be removed or changed, or features that can be built or re-added in a weekend in a garage (which only affects people who shoot recreationally, and not someone planning a shooting for weeks or months like mass shooters tend to do).

- A ban on most semi-auto guns including the vast majority of handguns people rely on for every day carry and self defense.

If you want to try to have an effective ban without nuking handguns too, you have to be fairly knowledgeable about guns and machining and very specific about what you're proposing, and there are likely still holes big enough to drive a falcon nine through.

And then, if you come up with such a proposal that actually might work, you have to run the gauntlet of:

1. It's unconstitutional.

2. Semi-auto long guns are actually better for self defense than handguns, the main reasons people use handguns are that long guns are less mobile/concealable and louder.

3. What exactly are you going to do about the tens of millions of banned guns and maybe hundreds of millions of banned magazines for those guns? Confiscation? Do you want a civil war? No confiscation? Then nefarious people will have no trouble getting them on the black market.

(chimeracoder's reply is completely right, but I didn't want to take the detour of getting into the technical definition of assault rifle when it makes no difference in this discussion.)


> You don't know what the side effects are because you don't know how an assault rifle is defined (it depends on which legislation you're talking about, there's no standard definition)

To clarify:

"Assault rifle" is well-defined with a standard definition. Assault rifles have been illegal for non-military, non-LEO use for decades (with a grandfather clause for rifles purchased before a certain date - these are incredibly expensive due to their rarity and belong mainly to collectors).

"Assault weapon" is completely undefined with no common consensus around what it refers to, and plenty of inconsistent or self-contradictory definitions in use.


I would argue that none of the potential harms you talked about are either realistic or of the same magnitude of closing the online dating industry to new entrants, forcing discussion forms of all sizes to adopt automated censorship programs to defend their owners against a credible threat of jail time if anyone is found posting anything about trafficking on the platform, and a plethora of other side effects better described in the original article above.

I think you’re right when you say the technical detail of the assault rifle definition is irrelevant. Just because I don’t know as much about gun types as you does not mean that I can’t see that banning a particular type of firearm will not lead to civil war, but weakening 230 will lead to the centralization of censorship of the internet.


What do you think about banning high capacity magazines?

It is much easily defined and codified than "assault weapons".

Personally I'm surprised the anti-gun people don't go after magazines, instead fighting the same battle over and over again.


Why is the right to communicate with a military grade global network in the same breath as the freedom to speak and associate in the town common? The splash damage of hate speech amplified by the power of modern communication platforms isn’t remotely comparable. Do you think the founders envisioned people being able to communicate instantly and with millions of people across the country?!

Freedom of speech should clearly only apply to however far your voice can carry unassisted by technology. Anything else is clearly too dangerous to allow the common citizenry to wield.

</s>

The whole point of freedom of speech and right to bear arms is a citizenry which can literally stand up to its own government. I can’t understand in this day and age, with country after country ravaged by war, people oppressed, tortured, detained without due process, jailed for wrongthink, etc. how I’m supposed to take anyone seriously that think I should actually give up my natural rights as a law abiding citizen.


About 90% of gun deaths in the US are by hand guns. If you seriously wanted to reduce gun violence, banning hand guns seems like the obvious place to start.

Handguns are cheaper, easier to conceal, and easier to shoot yourself with.

Banning rifles to prevent gun deaths is a bit like banning oversized rear spoilers on cars to prevent car deaths. Sure cars with spoilers look faster and there is an association with street racing, but most vehicular deaths do not involve one.


You're diminishing the gun control debate. It means more than the right to skeet shoot certain weapons.

You're inflating the FOSTA debate, it mean less than a general attack on free speech.


Please enlighten me. What is the splash damage for not being to own an assault rifle vs the splash damage of making platforms responsible for their users speech (even if they don’t know it’s happening)?


I think your statement in the form of a question boils down to "banning high powered weapons affects less people than banning sites with personals". Perhaps youre right in that angle but you originally said "Why is the right to skeet shoot with a military weapon in the same breath as forums for free speech?" and from the standpoint of eroding citizen rights and privacy to government in the name of safety they are _absolutely_ the same.


Just bringing some information about "assault rifles"

Assault rifles, by military definition, have selective fire. None of my AR-15 rifles, or semi automatic 10/22 have that function. I cannot have assault rifles without a manufacturer license as a civilian.

"Military grade" weapons are garbage, my guns are far superior than military grade in quality and reliability.


So would you say the side effects of banning Assault Rifles have been negligible? And what would you say of the potential side effects of SESTA/FOSTA?


More to the point, the intended effects of banning Assault Rifles have been negligible—and not nearly sufficient to justify even minor side effects.


Weapons ban tend to have a hidden motive, or are emotional reflexes. Even with all strict laws, California led on the number of murders in 2016 (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-...).

SESTA/FOSTA could be a stepping stone to prohibit more free speech.

It's insane that we see constant attacks on the first and second amendment by the government, all in one month.


1st amendment - free speech 2nd amendment - skeet shoot with military weapons


> the right to skeet shoot with a military weapon This is a classic strawman argument, and you know it.


While on the topic of censorship, https://blog.github.com/2018-03-14-eu-proposal-upload-filter...

"The EU is considering a copyright proposal that would require code-sharing platforms to monitor all content that users upload for potential copyright infringement (see the EU Commission’s proposed Article 13 of the Copyright Directive) … Upload filters (“censorship machines”) are one of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal … EU policymakers have told us it would be very useful to hear directly from more developers. In particular, developers at European companies can make a significant impact."


I see no way this proposal passes.


It's still at the proposal phase, but I wouldn't be so sure. It effectively extends the "content ID" system from being Google's voluntary choice to mandatory in the industry.


This would make it very hard for startups to compete


Like the revisions to Section 230 in the US?


Github is perfectly fine with censorship on their platform and they frequently use it to take down repositories that use language they don't like, it only becomes a problem when someone else does it to them. That blog post is very dishonest and manipulative too.


Can you give a specific example of what you're referring to? I suspect that you're thinking of situations like the GamerGateOP repository, which was disabled because it was being used for harassment. (There was no actual code in the repository; it was simply being used to host a newsletter.)

Besides, what are you trying to argue here? That web sites should be forced to distribute anyone's content?


Webm for retards is one example of censorship on Github. There are plenty of repositories that have no code in them that are perfectly fine by Github rules even if they're just pieces of propaganda.

What I'm trying to argue is that they're hypocrites that are only against censorship when it's applied to them and endangers their profits.


All online code/media publishing companies would be equally affected.


So they've solved the halting problem then?


So if I post something about sex and prostitution research in HN then HN is liable for some criminal violation if they don't censor it? What kind of insanity is that? Would that not open the possibility of destroying an online site with comments (or even something like Medium) deliberately by posting now "illegal" things?


The cynic in me thinks this is exactly the intention. Shut down any site you don’t like, with the argument being literally “think of the children”


If you find clients for your pimping business via HN, with HN's knowing consent, then yes, it's a criminal violation.


Knowing consent that it's used for prostitution isn't required under FOSTA/SESTA. Merely knowing consent that there's facilitation.


How many of the commenters read the actual bill, and not just about the bill? It's quite short, and it's on Congress' website.

I agree with everyone who says this will just drive prostitution underground, and isn't helpful. However, I am wondering about how hurtful it is to sites which are not designed to host personals or prostitution advertising.

Dating sites are in a gray area, and they have been vetting people's descriptions for a long time.

Social networking sites have flagging features, that others can use to flag profiles for review, under various categories. One of them can be specifically tailored to make sure this bill doesn't describe them as "reckless disregard".

All other sites that host user-generated content, such as programming forums, I think, are in no danger.

Again, this is not about the good intentions of the bill vs what it actually achieves to reduce human trafficking or prostitution. But rather, my comment is mainly about its effect on the vast majority of sites hosting user-generated content under section 230.


One of the problems is this line in particular:

The term ‘participation in a venture’ means knowing conduct by an individual or entity, that assists, supports, or facilitates a violation.

"facilitating" means "make easier or less difficult". Hosting a website that allows people to talk about things, potentially including sex trafficking, certainly makes it easier, and under this law, any such website would be liable.


I think you’re right; but it’s already having a chilling effect, with large platforms banning and removing content left right and centre to preempt this bill, regardless of whether it would actually fall afoul of it.

When you’ve got huge fines and jail time at stake, it’s better for the companies in question to err on the side of more censorship, not less, and it’s worse for everyone who uses the platform in question. So even though I agree with you, it’s already having the impact that a slippery slope argument would expect... that’s very worrying to me.


It seems like a dirty tactic for a federal law to be passed making websites that promote prostitution illegal while the legality of actual prostitution is left up to the individual states to decide. I bet this isn't the first time this type of tactic has been employed.


I think it is more like cigarettes, you are free to smoke your lungs off but tobacco companies are forbidden to advertise.

Fair enough, I don't want my daughters watching ads about amazing returns for beautiful girls in the prostitution industry.


Would you rather your daughter hooking on the street making barely enough to stay alive because her pimp takes all the money or in a safe place with healthcare, police protection, and high earnings?


Excellent question!

No, I live in Brazil where prostitution is not illegal but profiting from prostitutes is.

So brothels and pimping are illegal - although there are plenty brothels, you only see pimping on very high level escorts and I never saw a place with sex slaves (but I saw this kind of place in other countries).

So this is my point, prostitution should be legal and physically safe both for prostitutes and Johns (nobody being beaten, mugged or otherwise ripped off) the same way tobacco smoking is legal. It is my opinion about safe recreational drugs as well. And like tobacco, companies should be prevented from mass-advertising.


The real irony is between SESTA/FOSTA and the CLOUD act we've basically regulated Internet companies into mandatory consumer violation instead of protection. There is no end to this. If this extends to telcos then decentralization will not help. Today, we made the Internet into broadcast television. Congratulations to AT&T.


What do you mean by "mandatory consumer violation"?


One only hopes the growing gap between the government and its citizens will reach a breaking point, but unfortunately it seems too many are willing to stay apathetic and complacent, "because it doesn't affect me" while the government continues stripping them of their ability to revolt.

Not to mention the clever(!?) technique of naming these bills such that those opposing them could be seen as supporting the various crimes they are intending to fight against.

"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."


I was spurred to make a sizable donation to the EFF by recent news (in addition to my regular per-paycheque) donation and I encourage anyone else reading this to consider donating as well.


I agree 100% with everything in the article, but to play devils advocate:

A common thread that appears on HN is the nostalgia laden post about how the internet used to be "smaller" and more "personal", with forums and chat rooms ruling the landscape instead of social media. This article mentions that large internet companies will be able to afford litigation, but medium sized companies will not. Small communities, however, are able to be moderated by a small team of humans.

The reason why reddit/4chan/twitter/craigslist/youtube are forced into sweeping censorship due to FOSTA/SESTA is because they have user bases too massive to comb through without a clumsy algorithm. They will become the network broadcast TV; small sites will become the internet reaction to that, what they were always supposed to be.

Obviously, SESTA/FOSTA is the dumbest way to build a smaller internet, hurts more user than it helps on massive platforms, and spreads unlawful activity to even smaller, darker corners of the internet. But grasping for silver linings here.


> Small communities, however, are able to be moderated by a small team of humans.

That doesn't change the cost per user. You're essentially talking about having the users do the moderation, but that isn't enough when it comes to legal requirements. What happens when they make mistakes because they aren't lawyers?

If smaller communities take over it won't be because they're more economical, it will be for the same reasons that piracy sites continue to exist -- they're in violation of the law but for every one that gets shut down two more pop up.


Good point. Especially the last remark about two or more popping up; that's really the worst side effect of SESTA/FOSTA.


Well ... it's what I've come to expect from our federal government.


That's why free speech basically can't be selective. If it was Reddit banning /r/the_donald, all of you complaining now would cheer the development.


For the longest time the argument for banning The_Donald wasn't to silence their voice. It was to tell their users to fuck off if they can't follow the site rules. They would constantly manipulate the vote counts or brigade smaller subs, more recently the spotlight has been about reddit's rules regarding advocating violence.

The problem was always that they hid behind the guise that they were the unofficial Donald Trump fanclub when there really never was an alternative one with a more moderate userbase. The_Donald is fine to exist but they seemingly refuse to stay in their playpen and ahve their fun, they need to sling mud throughout the rest of reddit while they're there.

And just to state it, I don't think TD is the only sub guilty of this behavior. I don't think its even an issue exclusive to politics but I really wish Reddit took a more hard look at their rule enforcement to make things clear and had clear transparency for their enforcement of the rules.


The main reason that "playpen" is the way it is, is because the default news and politics subs went full Clinton, with moderator and admin approval. It's also an open secret that SRS and its friends brigade the rest of the site, and again, admins allow their rule violations to continue.

Reddit is not interested in being a neutral platform, and the constant scapegoating of the people they drive into containment subs as being the cause rather than the result is both tiresome and idiotic. If you don't want people to isolate themselves and radicalize, don't drive them away from mainstream channels.

One if my main gripes with the current American left is their inability to see themselves as agents who cause the things they hate.


>It's also an open secret that SRS and its friends brigade the rest of the site

Haven't been there in a while, but an invariant of scrolling through SRS was that the linked posts had a high upvote count, before and after being linked from SRS page.

Which is the entire point of SRS - to show what kinds of things that that group finds objectionable gets upvoted on reddit.

I know that SRS is reddit's favorite bogeyman, but personally, I just haven't seen any evidence to the claim you made.

Note, I am not saying this to argue with you. I am writing this to provide a piece of anecdata to the person scrolling through this thread not much aware of the things being talked about.


Reddit doesn't have to permit freedom of speech on their site. The US government does have to permit it, supposedly.


Facilitating criminal activity is not protected speech.


I never implied that it was.


instead, they banned the 100% legal /r/gundeals.


Prostitution devalues the defacto-trade currency of relationships- thus every creature dependent for well-beeing on a relationship, will put agents into motion to harass the consumers and providers of the "free-drug-trade".

So, yes, your wife is secretly donating money to harass prostitutes.


If Facebook, Google, et al didn't want these authoritarian laws passed do you think they'd make it through?

They are likely purposefully doing this to create a humongous barrier of entry for new incumbents. And a fresh new way to politically destroy competition.

This is why we need to decentralize as much as possible.


Let's ask a harsh question: Could a service like Gmail or Hotmail be declared illegal with this?


What about airlines with online booking websites? People have travelled for sex tourism to countries with trafficked sex workers, and it's such a known phenomenon that there's no reasonable way the operators of an airline could be unaware of it. And yet, they still sell tickets. By the letter of the law, that can certainly "make easier or less difficult" the sex trade by facilitating the transportation of potential customers. Are they then criminally liable if someone is found to have flown on their airline for the purpose of sex tourism?


I don't like the pretense of the law, but the hysteria surrounding this is truly astounding.

No, Gmail, Facebook, and Travelocity are not complicit in the sex trade by virtue of the fact that someone can use their services to conduct such actions. Section 230 still exists. Without it, yes, you might actually be right, and the internet would implode due to the liability involved in running any service at all. We already covered this 20 years ago.

The operative word in the new law is "knowingly." If Gmail knowingly provided services to a pimp, if Facebook knowingly hosted a group to facilitate trafficking, and if Travelocity knowingly sold sex tourism packages ("we see you're renting a hotel and a car-- would you like to add an underaged escort?"), then the law applies. Selling someone a ticket to Thailand isn't a crime. Giving them recommendations on the local brothels might be.

Backpage is in the shit because they knew they were hosting child prostitution ads and actively tried to hide it from police. Silk Road couldn't claim 230 because internal documents showed Ulbricht knew he was facilitating the drug trade (and even knew what the consequences would be!).

The message is clear-- if you're going to run an illegal site, don't participate in its content or market it for those purposes. Don't seed it or hire anybody to seed your content. Just stay out of it, run an agnostic platform and let the users generate their own content (4chan isn't technically a porn site, after all). If something is brought to your attention, delete it and document it-- you fulfilled your obligation.

You'd still have deniability as to what your users are up to; after all, you can't be expected to police all the user-generated content faster than they can create it.


> You'd still have deniability as to what your users are up to; after all, you can't be expected to police all the user-generated content faster than they can create it.

For now… This law is a stepping stone to government–curated mandatory content filtering.

Facebook & Google are already testing & developing the technology voluntarily[1].

The government will initially say you don’t have use it, of course, but maybe if you choose to then you won’t have to worry about that nasty liability laws…

If it’s voluntarily then there’s no 1st amendment issue, they’ll have their lawyers argue.

And the people will agree, nodding along in their safe spaces, as even now they mindlessly repeat that “censorship is legal,” don’t you know, “if the corporations do it.”

And at first it will be fine. But all that’s left for that censorship dream to become a sweet reality is just one final missing puzzle piece. To make the list secret. So close!

How will they do it? Maybe they’ll say that a list of hashes /fingerprints of illegal content is “facilitating” child pornography, because after all that’s how Torrents and DHTs work. Is a magnet link not facilitating piracy?

Not convinced? Just then Google will deliver with an AI technology to recreate images from the Fingerprints, not quite perfect, but the cherry picked examples resembling the original content just enough to make you feel uncomfortable[2].

Could the Fingerprints be modified to prevent it? Is it possible they were in fact designed with this exact goal in mind from the very beginning?

You don’t dare to ask. You are not a PEDOPHILE.

The list becomes secret.

Do you think this is far fetched?[3]

> internal documents showed Ulbricht knew he was facilitating the drug trade

They also showed him ordering hits on people[3] for as long as it was necessary to serve as a convenient distraction.

[1] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/facebook_fing...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeepDream

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_the_Uni...

[4] https://freeross.org/2014/08/31/mia-murder-for-hire-charges/


Big question is if this will actually survive judicial review. I am quite sure someone will make a test case out of something. There's enough of "offending material" to make hay off.


Does it mean that websites now must prevent encrypted communication?

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zoGfSQvhXeaoNfMyrEd9WA==


Here is the question all Americans should ask about legislation: "Is it constitutional?"

If no. Discard or modify.


I’m worried that it is. Most of the legal precedents in the internet space hinge on the fact that it is impossible for things like search engines to read every page they index, so mandating they do will ban search engines, and the courts doubt congress meant to do that. (Sometimes judges will say the law has to “scale” to new technologies, and then find in the common sense direction, instead of following the letter of the law)

Google has said that it is now feasible for machine learning algorithms to police user content, which undermines the legal precedent. Honestly, I’m surprised this change had to go through congress, since the legal precedents were on shaky ground to start with.

I think you’ll fund the framers of the constitution did not anticipate the existence of publishers that cannot even enumerate the things they publish, and were completely silent on this issue.

A similar oversight occurred with online privacy: The government’s surveillance apparatus is much smaller than corporate America’s and nothing stops the government from buying legally available commercial surveillance data, so they just launder illegal searches through private industry.

(The CLOUD act extends this to launder the searches through foreign governments, and also expand US law enforcement’s jurisdiction to the whole planet—that seems much more likely to fall afoul of the constitution. Issues of sovereignty and protection against foreign influence were clearly well understood when the constitution was written.)


Malicious users will always find ways around machine learning algorithms, though. So if the law makes it impossible for someone to run a legitimate personals website (as it seems to already be happening with Craigslist), then doesn't that amount to government-instituted prior restraint on what should be legitimate free speech?


So does that mean Nevada can sue the federal government because it is legal there?


did anybody else get the messages from EFF and ignore them?


Now what?




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