DC Court Upholds FOSTA-SESTA, Rejects Free-Speech Challenge

DC Court Upholds FOSTA-SESTA, Rejects Free-Speech Challenge

WASHINGTON — The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a legal challenge to FOSTA-SESTA presented by First Amendment and free speech advocates, ruling that the U.S. government can continue enforcing the controversial legislation.

The court found on Tuesday that FOSTA-SESTA “is neither overly broad nor unduly vague,” Bloomberg Law reported today.

As XBIZ reported, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Internet Archive and two webmasters sued the U.S. government to challenge the much-criticized carve-out of Section 230, allegedly passed to "help fight human trafficking." The plaintiffs are represented by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Walters Law Group.

FOSTA-SESTA was drafted by religiously-motivated Midwestern Republicans and sold to Democratic members of Congress — most famously now-VP Kamala Harris — as "an anti-human trafficking measure." However, 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. In June 2021, confirming what the vast majority of sex workers and advocates had warned about in 2017 and 2018, the FBI told the Government Accountability Office that its “ability to identify and locate sex trafficking victims and perpetrators was significantly decreased following the takedown of Backpage.com.”

FOSTA-SESTA, the court ruled Tuesday, “doesn’t violate the First Amendment because it doesn’t discriminate against speech based on its content or viewpoint,” Bloomberg Law reported. “And the law gives sufficient notice of the type of conduct it prohibits to survive a Fifth Amendment void-for-vagueness challenge.”

In the opinion of Judge Richard J. Leon, FOSTA “is narrowly tailored to encompass only legitimate criminal activity, not a substantial portion of protected speech, and gives adequate notice of what conduct it prohibits.”

“The plaintiffs are aware of the decision,” Walters Law Group’s Larry Walters told XBIZ. “While we are naturally disappointed with the ruling, we are committed to appealing the dismissal and continuing the constitutional challenge to FOSTA-SESTA.”

The case is Woodhull Freedom Found. v. United States, D.D.C., No. 18-cv-1552.

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