US House of Representatives passes controversial online trafficking bill

27 Feb 2018

The US House of Representatives have passed a bill that would make it easier to pursue legal action against online platforms that are used by sex traffickers. The bill would amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which currently protects platforms from liability for content posted by others. The bill was initially opposed by the Internet industry, yet some tech companies eventually looked for a compromise or backed the amendment due to the bill’s strong political support. Nevertheless, there is still strong opposition to the legislation, most notably by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which claims that it is a ‘win for censorship’, and that it will ‘undoubtedly lead to platforms policing more user speech’. If approved by the Senate, the bill will move to the White House to be signed into law.

Explore the issues

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.

One of the main sociocultural issues is content policy, often addressed from the standpoints of human rights (freedom of expression and the right to communicate), government (content control), and technology (tools for content control). Discussions usually focus on three groups of content:

Children’s use of the Internet and mobile technology is increasing, and for many children worldwide there is no clear distinction between the online and offline world. Access to the Internet presents many opportunities for their education, personal development, self-expression, and interaction with others.

Women's rights online address online aspects of traditional women rights with respect to discrimination in the exercise of rights, the right to hold office, the right to equal pay and the right to education. Women represent more than half of the world’s population, yet their participation in technology-mediated processes is an area where progress is still needed.

 

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