Major companies urge Senate to pass online sex trafficking bill

Major companies urge Senate to pass online sex trafficking bill
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A group of major companies that includes Disney, IBM and Oracle is urging the Senate to pass an online sex trafficking bill that some internet firms believe could upend what they see as crucial legal protections for their industry.

In a letter that will be sent to Senate leaders on Tuesday, the companies, which have all been at odds with internet giants in the past, argued that the bill is necessary to crack down on the online sex trafficking trade.

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“As responsible U.S. companies, we believe it is time to address this urgent problem,” reads the letter, which was obtained by The Hill. “This legislation has been thoughtfully and carefully shaped through the legislative process to provide limited, controlled exceptions to the [Communications Decency Act] immunity provision that will help policymakers, law enforcement, and victims combat this illicit criminal activity.”

The letter was also signed by Home Depot, Hewlett Packard and 21st Century Fox.

The bill, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, would make it easier to go after websites for facilitating sex trafficking by cutting into the broad legal protections that web platforms currently enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

That provision, which many tech companies see as foundational to online speech, protects websites from liability over content posted by third-party users.

“Section 230 is critically important to the Internet ecosystem and enables startups and web platforms to engage in content moderation without fear of liability,” Evan Engstrom, the executive director of the startup advocacy group Engine, said in a statement last week.

The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly last month and is currently awaiting a floor vote in the Senate.

Engine and a group of major tech firms last week urged the Senate to make some last-minute changes to the bill to ease the burdens for platform companies.