Woodhull Files Appeal in FOSTA-SESTA Challenge Suit

Woodhull Files Appeal in FOSTA-SESTA Challenge Suit

WASHINGTON — The Woodhull Freedom Foundation has filed an appeal in its suit challenging the constitutionality of FOSTA-SESTA.

Woodhull is joined in mounting the appeal by Human Rights Watch, the Internet Archive, Alex Andrews and Eric Koszyk.

Woodhull is represented by Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine; Lawrence G. Walters of Walters Law Group; Aaron Mackey, Corynne McSherry and David Greene of digital rights nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Daphne Keller of the Stanford Cyber Law Center.

Last month, 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.

FOSTA-SESTA was passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by Donald Trump four years ago. The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the leading nonprofit advocating for sexual freedom as a fundamental human right, described the law in its appeal as “a controversial anti-trafficking law which devastated the sex worker community and damaged free speech more broadly.”

Woodhull’s Executive Director Ricci Joy Levy said the plaintiffs in the original suit “are in the fight for the long haul. In the hours after its passage, we saw the dramatic chilling effect FOSTA would have on legally protected speech, as platforms, forums and resources used by sex workers and others were taken offline. In the years since, through both the data and lived experiences, we’ve seen how FOSTA has endangered the lives of sex workers.”

“With this law, the government has encouraged censorship that is otherwise prohibited by the First Amendment,” Levy stated.

FOSTA-SESTA, Woodhull noted, “created an exemption to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for both criminal and civil complaints involving the promotion or facilitation of prostitution. Free speech and internet rights advocates and sex worker rights groups have all protested the law, which has since resulted in widespread censorship of sex-related speech.”

Walters explained that FOSTA’s Section 230 exemption “sets a dangerous precedent for government censorship of other types of disfavored speech. Given the constitutional issues in the case, we knew the trial court’s decision would ultimately be appealed to the DC Circuit, where we won in the last appeal.”

“This appeal will now go to the DC Circuit Court where we won in the first appeal,” he told XBIZ today. “In this kind of facial challenge to a statute, the appellate court will take a fresh look at the constitutionality of FOSTA, and we welcome the opportunity to present our case.”

The noted industry attorney sees the outcome of this legal challenge as extremely important, noting that “Congress may try to use the FOSTA legislative formula to force online platforms to censor other types of disfavored speech.”

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