WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Richard Leon today granted the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and other plaintiffs over the enforcement of FOSTA.
With the order, Leon also denied Woodhull’s motion for preliminary injunction.
Woodhull and the other plaintiffs maintained that FOSTA is unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and fails strict scrutiny tests regarding advancing an important government interest.
Oral arguments in the case were held in mid-July at U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and taken under advisement.
FOSTA, known formally as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, brings new tools for law enforcement, including the ability to bring criminal charges against the operators of sites that facilitate prostitution. It also allows for civil claims, as well.
Woodhull and the other plaintiffs noted First and Fifth Amendments violations come with the law amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provided companies immunity from most liability for publishing third-party content.
One by one, Leon, in his memorandum opinion issued today, said that Woodhull and the other plaintiffs named in the suit — Human Rights Watch, Eric Koszyk, Alex Andrews and the Internet Archive — lacked standing (having a vested interest) to peel back amending Section 230.
Since FOSTA was passed in the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Trump numerous adult websites have been affected by the measure's intention to outlaw prostitution advertising. Many have closed shop or limited access.
Counsel representing Woodhull and other plaintiffs include Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine; Lawrence Walters of the Walters Law Group; Aaron Mackey, David Greene and Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Daphne Keller of the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.
Counsel for the government include Jessie Liu, Daniel Van Horn and Jason Cohen.
Walters told XBIZ today that Woodhull and the other plaintiffs are weighing their options to fight FOSTA's enforcement.
"While we were naturally disappointed that the court did not reach the constitutional issues with FOSTA, we believe that the plaintiffs have standing to bring the claims," Walters said. "Either side would have likely appealed the rulings on these initial motions, regardless of the result.
"So, the plaintiffs are currently considering their next steps in pursuing the case."