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“Ultimately, what we saw is that it is politically almost impossible to do anything but support a bill that says it will stop child sex trafficking,” Emma Llanso, director of the Center for Data & Technology’s (CDT) free expression project, told me.Section 230 was born from a couple of 1990s court cases that decided whether tech companies at the very beginning of the internet were responsible for what people were sharing on the platforms they had created.

” Many lawmakers, especially in the Senate, appeared confused about what Facebook does, exactly what problems they wanted to fix about it, and how they might begin to regulate it.

It is also worth noting that US lawmakers have historically been reluctant to regulate technology, as opposed to Europe, which has been much more aggressive.

The law, however, changed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a 20-year-old communications law that is the basis of the free internet as we know it.

On April 11, President Donald Trump signed the bill — a combination of bills passed by the House and Senate, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) — into law.

But platforms can’t wash their hands entirely — federal criminal laws apply, and there are carve-outs for arenas such as intellectual property.

“It’s basically the fundamental framework for how we think about the legal liabilities of intermediaries around user-generated content,” said Llanso, from the CDT.

The legislation opens more avenues for victims of online sex trafficking to legally pursue websites that facilitate trafficking by amending Section 230, making it easier for federal and state prosecutors and private citizens to go after platforms whose sites have been used by traffickers.

FOSTA-SESTA, however, isn’t without its detractors: Some sex workers say it will actually put them in further danger and push illicit activity into even deeper corners of the internet, and free internet proponents worry that platforms might censor or pull content preemptively just to avoid risk.

“The larger question is whether this is part of a case for more extensive regulation on different intermediaries, and I think we just don’t know the answer to that yet,” said Harvard law professor Rebecca Tushnet.

Multiple lawmakers touted the bill at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Commerce committees in April.

The tech community views Section 230 as one of the most important principles of the internet.

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