Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co.

May 25, 1995: This was the second of two contradicting Supreme Court cases in the 1990s relating to the liability of online platforms for user-generated content published on their sites. This legal discrepancy was the impetus for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy, the courts ruled...
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Reno v. ACLU

June 1997: In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the ACLU. The anti-indecency provisions of the CDA are an unconstitutional violation of first amendment rights. The ACLU argued that the censorship provisions criminalized expression protected by constitution because the terms “indecent” and “patently offensive” are overbroad and vague. Importantly,...
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University of Pennsylvania Publishes a Study on Commercial Child Sexual Exploitation

September 2001: Professors at the University of Pennsylvania published a widely cited study in which they estimated that some 326,000 children were “at risk of commercial sexual exploitation” in the United States. The role of the internet was not specified, but it was stated that the online victimization of children had reached “epic proportions.”...
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Craigslist Opens Its Erotic Services (ERS) Page

From 2002 to 2010, Craigslist provided an Erotic Services section on its front page, effected with several other specialized advertisement sections like housing, cars, childcare, etc. ERS initially provided free advertising to legal sex workers ,such as private dancers. It was quickly utilized by those participating in prostitution to match with clients and coordinate...
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ERS Shuts Its Doors

September 2010: A lawsuit against Craigslist was filed by Thomas Dart, a sheriff in Cook County, Illinois, in 2009. Dart charged the site with facilitating prostitution. The case was rejected on the grounds of Section 230. Facing increased pressure to shut down their ERS page, the company initially argued that it had a right...
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The Federal Government Wages an Investigation Into backpage.com

January 2017: The Federal Government Wages an Investigation Into backpage.com, the Largest Remaining Platform of Internet Advertisements for Sexual Services Instead of Undergoing Investigation, Backpage Shutters Its Adult Services Page After Years of Resistance. The final report, published on January 8, 2017, was entitled “Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” The findings of...
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Congress Passes SESTA/FOSTA

February/March 2018: A package of bills, entitled Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), incorporating the House version, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), passed the House and the Senate. SESTA/FOSTA modifies Section 230 to remove services providers’ immunity when dealing with civil or criminal crimes related to sex trafficking....
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SESTA Is Signed Into Law by President Trump

April 11, 2018: In the weeks following the passage of the law, the federal government seizes Backpage.com, where many sexual service advertisements have migrated to different sections, sex workers are forced back onto the street, facing violence and increasing the power of exploitive pimps. Law enforcement is forced to abandon hundreds of open trafficking...
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation Files a Federal Lawsuit To Challenge the Constitutionality of SESTA

June 28, 2018: Representing the Internet Archive, Human Rights Watch, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, massage therapist Eric Koszyk, and sex therapist Alex Andrews, and endorsed by human rights groups including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Prostasia Foundation for Child Abuse prevention, EFF challenges the criminalization of protected speech.  On September 24, the suit is...
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The Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Other Plaintiffs Appeal Their Case to the U.S. Appellate Court

November 2018: The Woodhull Freedom Foundation and other plaintiffs appeal their case to the US Appellate Court. DSW submits an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.
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Woodhull and Other Plaintiffs Deliver Their Oral Arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals

September 18, 2019: Woodhull and other plaintiffs deliver their oral arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
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Representatives Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee Announce in the House and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden in the Senate, Introduce the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act To Examine the Effects of SESTA

December 17, 2019: Representatives Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee announce in the House and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden in the Senate, introduce the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act to examine the effects of SESTA. The bill calls for the national Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish empirical data on the risks sex...
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The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Revives Woodhull’s Case

January 24, 2020: The Court Orders That the Constitutional Challenge of SESTA/FOSTA Be Sent Back to the District Court for a Ruling on the Merits of the Case. The court found that two of the four plaintiffs in the case have adequate standing to pursue claims. Alex Andrews, through her website Rate That Rescue,...
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SESTA/FOSTA News