Federal Court Hears Woodhull's Appeal Challenging FOSTA

Federal Court Hears Woodhull's Appeal Challenging FOSTA

WASHINGTON — A group led by prestigious free speech and sexual expression organizations suing the U.S. government to block enforcement of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) appeared this morning at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to ask for a reversal of a district court judge’s decision to dismiss their case.

Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the Internet Archive, Human Rights Watch and individuals Alex Andrews and Eric Koszyk are the plaintiffs, or "appellants," questioning the constitutional status of the controversial FOSTA legislation.

The legislation, also known as SESTA-FOSTA, was drafted by religiously motivated Midwestern Republicans and sold to Democratic members of Congress — most famously by SWEL (Sex Worker Exclusionary Liberal) Senator Kamala Harris — as an anti-human trafficking measure.

In fact, since Donald Trump signed it into law in April 2018, FOSTA has had null-to-negative effect in the fight against actual human trafficking in the U.S. It has largely been used by law enforcement to target defunct online classifieds platform Backpage.com, mom-and-pop massage parlors and now, reportedly, Europe-based webmasters of sites where escorts ply their trade.

According to Woodhull Freedom Foundation, FOSTA “expansively criminalizes online speech related to sex work and removes important protections for online intermediaries.”

Lawyers for the appellants argued that FOSTA "broadly changes the ecosystem of internet intermediary liability and prohibits speech unrelated to trafficking" and that they have the standing to challenge FOSTA, despite one of the objections, centered on legal standing, often raised by the government to disqualify critics of overreaching legislation in court, also used in the ongoing "2257" trial.

Attorney Larry Walters stressed to XBIZ that Woodhull and the other appellants were "encouraged by the panel’s insightful questions during Oral Argument, and remain optimistic for a positive result in this appeal."

"Woodhull is committed to fighting FOSTA to the end," Walters added.

“As the only national human rights organization working full-time to affirm and protect sexual freedom as a fundamental human right,” said President/CEO of Woodhull Freedom Foundation Ricci Levy, “we are deeply concerned about the effect of FOSTA on sexual expression and speech. Already, FOSTA has inhibited sexual freedom by forcing websites to shut down, moderate content and censor users. Let’s be clear: sex workers are being harmed, but all of us will feel the reverberation of this legislation.

“This case is about the future of online censorship and sexual expression in this country.”

For more of XBIZ's coverage of the fight against FOSTA, click here.

Woodhull et al. vs. U.S.A. Apellants' Reply Brief (Sept. 2019)

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