Challenges Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Yelp! to Act in Public’s Interest
SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today praised Tech giant Oracle for breaking ranks with the rest of the industry and supporting bipartisan Congressional efforts to amend a key Internet law so rogue websites like Backpage can be held accountable for facilitating child sex trafficking.
CoStar Group Inc., a real estate technology company that operates Apartments.com, also said in a letter to U.S. Senators that it supports amending the law. The company said it focused on the issue after discovering information through a copyright infringement legal case linking Backpage to sex trafficking.
“Your legislation does not, as suggested by the bill’s opponents, usher the end of the Internet,” wrote Kenneth Glueck, Oracle Senior Vice President, to Rep. Anne Wagner and Sens. Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal. “If enacted, it will establish some measure of accountability for those that cynically sell advertising here but are unprepared to help curtail sex trafficking.”
“As your and other investigations have demonstrated, sex trafficking has exploded in large part due to nefarious Internet actors that knowingly facilitate and profit from it,” Glueck wrote. “We agree that congressional action is necessary to put an end to this tragic exploitation of human beings and hold its online accomplices to account.”
Read Oracle’s letter to Rep. Wagner here.
Read Oracle’s letter to Sens. Portman and Blumenthal here.
“Oracle and CoStar Group understand the problem and are stepping up to do something,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “The rest of the tech industry is acting only in what it perceives to be its self-interest and greedily protecting profits no matter the harm. It’s time for Google, Facebook, Amazon, Yelp! and Twitter executives to grow up and act responsibly.”
In a letter to U.S. Senators Andy Florence, CoStar CEO, wrote:
“As a Technology company, we believe in, and have benefited from, the growth of the Internet. We understand that an unregulated Internet provides fertile ground for the development of important new and innovative business models, and we will continue to strongly defend that openness. But when we see those driven by greed take advantage of that freedom by facilitating sex trafficking, we cannot be silent. The absolute immunity under section 230 of the CDA can no longer be justified at the expense of the exploitation of children. We believe that SESTA is a thoughtful, narrowly tailored remedy, and is long overdue.”
Read CoStar Group’s letter here.
Tech companies and other defenders of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet, but a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations staff report shows that sites like Backpage aid and abet under-age sex traffickers using the blanket protection of the Act. By one count 73% of child trafficking reports in the United States involve Backpage.
The bipartisan Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Its 27 cosponsors include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The House bill, Rep. Ann Wagner’s H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, has 111 co-sponsors Both would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the section of the law that provides a website can’t be held liable for what’s posted on its site by third parties.
Google has led the Tech industry’s drive to block amending CDA Sec. 230. Virtually all of the groups voicing opposition to amending Sec. 230 after S. 1693 was introduced have received funding from Google. Groups include the Internet Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the R Street Institute, and the Software and Information Industry Association.
Oracle’s Glueck noted that technology has changed since the CDA was originally passed in 1996. He wrote:
“Any start-up has access to low cost and virtually unlimited computing power and to advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and filtering software. That capability is also offered as a service in the cloud. The business success of Internet and mobile computing platforms depends on their ability to precisely analyze, arrange and segment applications, data and content, to accurately target them at their most relevant audiences – along with advertising, of course – not to blindly run platforms with no control of the content.”
Backpage’s abuses and the fight by its victims to hold it accountable are the subject of the documentary film, I am Jane Doe, (http://www.iamjanedoefilm.com) which is now available on Netflix or can be downloaded from Google Play, iTunes or Amazon.
“Watch the film,” Simpson said. “You’ll clearly understand the abuses that blind defense of Sec. 230 enables.”
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