Engine's Statement on the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act

The following statement can be attributed to Engine Executive Director, Evan Engstrom:

“Efforts to roll back the critical protections for websites in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act are gravely concerning to the startup community. More than virtually any other piece of legislation, Section 230 is directly responsible for facilitating the development of the Internet ecosystem we have today, and attempts to narrow its protections—however well-intentioned—would put the economic, cultural, and educational value of the Internet at risk. By creating an exception to Section 230’s limitation on website liability for user speech if the site is found to have knowledge of human trafficking activity, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act will not only open startups up to potentially ruinous and unfounded litigation, it will likely be counterproductive, discouraging sites from developing tools to address trafficking activity occurring on their platforms.

We recognize that online human trafficking is an abhorrent problem that policymakers, victims groups, and startups should all seek to eradicate, and our community of startups is interested in helping craft meaningful solutions to address this issue. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, however, is not an effective way to combat online trafficking. Holding platforms liable if they have “knowledge” of certain user activities will discourage websites from partnering with law enforcement or otherwise engaging in voluntary initiatives to stamp out trafficking on their sites, lest they be held to have effective knowledge of user activities that could create legal liability. We are eager to work with law enforcement and anti-trafficking groups to craft policies that put an end to online human trafficking, but we fear that the approach proposed in the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act will have serious unintended consequences on the startup ecosystem without any meaningful impact on the bad actors the bill is nominally meant to address.”