Sex Work

Anti-Censorship Groups Tell Senate to Stop the 'Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation' Act



A coalition of civil liberties, publishing, and online commerce groups are asking Congress to oppose a piece of anti-speech, anti-sex work legislation known as as the "Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation" (SAVE) Act. The bill is allegedly aimed at thwarting human trafficking but in reality would create harsh new criminal liabilities for websites and publishers, allow federal agents to censor online ads, make it harder for adult sex workers of all sorts to safely connect with clients, drive traffickers further underground, and potentially expose anyone advertising online to new privacy infringements.  

Introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) in June, the bill could prove tempting to the incoming Senate. With its ostensible focus on helping child "victims of exploitation"—particularly child sex trafficking victims—the SAVE Act (S. 2536) is another bit of legislation ripe for displaying bipartisanship. 

In a November 12 letter to the U.S. Senate, nine organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Internet Commerce Coalition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Association of Alternative News Media, and the National Coalition Against Censorship—wrote to convey "strong opposition" to the SAVE Act. Though they "share the vital goal of ending human trafficking", the groups humbly suggest the government use tools already at its disposable—such as "the strong federal law that already criminalizes such activity online"—to combat trafficking, rather than placing broad, unconstitutional restrictions on everyone's free speech and privacy rights.

The SAVE Act would do several things: 1) create extensive record-keeping requirements for any website, online services, and print publication that hosts adult advertisements, 2) require anyone posting an adult ad to submit photo identification, 3) enable the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ban certain "euphemisms" or "code words" from online advertising entirely, and 4) make websites that host user-generated ads criminally liable should any of those ads wind up promoting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a minor. Under the law, the operator of a website such as Craigslist that hosts thousands of new user-uploaded ads daily could could face up to 10 years prison if any one of these is eventually linked to child sex trafficking.

"While existing aiding and abetting crimes should certainly reach someone who knowingly hosts a child trafficking ad with the intent to further the trafficking venture," the groups note,

S.2536 would mean that websites and services hosting user-generated content could be held criminally liable even if they do not have actual knowledge that an ad for illegal activity appears on their sites. 

Consequently, virtually any user-generated content host—like Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Amazon or various online dating sites—will have every incentive to prohibit content that falls under the bill's broad definition of "adult advertisements," which includes communications that are wholly or only partially devoted to proposing lawful commercial exchange for lawful services–in other words, speech that is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment. At best, user-generated content sites will default to taking down content that is flagged as an "adult advertisement" as soon as a complaint is lodged, regardless of whether the content appears to be related to child trafficking or state child exploitation crimes, or even fits the bill's definition of "adult advertisement" at all.

(…) And given the vague definitions and broad scope of the new crime, S.2536 would create a situation ripe for selective enforcement against sites and services that host disfavored – but wholly lawful – speech.

In addition, any website, online service, or print publication that hosts any content falling under the bill's definition as an "adult advertisement" would be required to obtain photo identification from anyone posting the content. This requirement manages to threaten ample people's privacy while creating additional regulatory burden for websites and publishers. Non-compliance could result in up to five years in jail—and noncompliance doesn't even have to be intentional: 

S. 2536 does not require that the website operator, online service, or publication know or intend to host "adult advertising" content before imposing liability. If one of a site's millions (or billions) of users were to upload a post or an image that fell under the bill's broad definition and that site operator had not already collected a copy of the user's driver's license, the site operator would face a mandatory minimum penalty of $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison. The effects would be felt the hardest by smaller businesses, both online and print, for whom one single violation triggering the mandatory minimum penalty could very well mean bankruptcy, and would serve as a disincentive to new start-ups

Rather than risk inadvertantly hosting an illegal ad without having obtained the proper identification, many sites would simply start requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to post an ad. Don't have one or don't want to share that info? You can't sell your washer or advertise your pet-sitting services. Submit your ID? Add your personal info into another insecure database. And the terribleness of this bill doesn't even end there… 

Further, because the recordkeeping requirement would also apply to those who "place" advertisements as well as those who host them, individuals who upload lawful content that falls under the bill's broad definition of "adult advertisement" would be likely to violate the law en masse simply because they are not aware of it. These individuals could become easy targets for prosecution for failure to comply with the recordkeeping requirement, diverting attention away from pursuing traffickers and those engaged in the actual victimization of children.

And perhaps most egregiously of all, the SAVE Act would empower the DOJ to ban the use of certain words in all online advertising. If the agency determined that something was a potential euphemism or "code word" for trafficking, web operators, publishers, and digital ad networks would be forced to censor ads containing these words or phrases. "Such a requirement is unworkable in practice," states the ACLU et al.'s letter, "would give the Department of Justice an enormous amount of discretion to censor online speech, and would not withstand scrutiny under the First Amendment."

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  1. Too many negatives in that title, I’s confused

    1. “First-Amendment Groups Urge Senate to Drop SAVE Act”

      1. Thank you, much better

        1. Thanks, but I also understand ENB’s headline since I would have had no clue about what the SAVE act was until she spelled it out. It’s a dreadful and convoluted name, as are most contrived acronyms.

          1. Really

  2. Why do you hate the children, ENB?

    1. If she’s anything like me, it’s because they are rude, inconsiderate little shits who think the world revolves around them.

      Actually I like kids. But the above is still true.

      1. Now, back to your W. C. Fields fan club meeting.

  3. 3) enable the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ban certain “euphemisms” or “code words” from online advertising entirely,

    I don’t see how that power could ever possibly be abused.

    1. I don’t see how that power is even possibly constitutional.

      1. You forgot the “protect the children” clause of the 1A that only Ivy League law graduates with magical black robs can see.

      2. “I know a code word when I see it.”

    2. Won’t somebody think of the, uh, “massage therapists”?

    3. What, exactly, is a “code word” for human trafficking? (Feel free to read that as “how fucking stupid are Feinstein and Kirk?”)

      Sure, I getcha. Because traffickers totally advertise that they’re trafficking in their Backpage ads. “Hot, underage girls, freshly unshackled from the hull of the boat! Come get a teen hottie straight from the cargo container!”

      1. Maybe it’s “ample people”.

      2. I think that they are alleging that there are codewords for underage girls, who are inherently trafficked since they can’t legally consent.

        But in typical prog fashion they don’t care how many other people’s rights they stomp on “if it saves even one child.”

        Also, never forget that this is a coalition between progs and straight up anti-prostitution folks.

      3. What, exactly, is a “code word” for human trafficking?

        You’re applying logic (or not, sarcastically) every step of the way.

        When you’re fighting against a wave of brutal oppression, you only need to see an “Open 24 hrs.” sign in a massage parlor window and know they have connections to the slave trade.

        The funniest part is the assumption that even if you did penetrate some secret cadre of traffickers, that you’d be able to hold up a copy of the law at them and say, “See? Illegal! Right there in black and white.” as though *that* is what would suddenly cause them to fall to their knees and weep. The cries of pain from women and children as they are brutalized and sleeping with that knowledge at night is nothing compared to the notion that you did something that a piece of paper somewhere says you shouldn’t.

  4. Non-compliance could result in up to five years in jail?and noncompliance doesn’t even have to be intentional:

    A government hack’s wet fucking dream.

    1. “You’re guilty of whatever we say you are.”

      1. I would support that only under the proviso that it is also legislated that this song must play in the courtroom upon sentencing.

    2. No need for mens rea, because FYTW.

      1. Mens rea? What about womyns rea? Sexist!!

        1. Womyn’s rea? That looks like CODE WORDS!! You trafficker, you!

  5. It’s nice to see that Democrats and Republicans can come together for some good ol hooker hatin’.

    1. In public, at least.
      How ’bout those ‘wide stances’?

  6. Don’t worry. Compliance will be very easy. Just read this 40-page information packet and fill out and file the last 12 pages.
    See? It’s very simple; this process is only required on a monthly basis for your convenience!

    1. Ignorantia juris non excusat

      1. It’s been a while since Latin, but I know exactly what that means.
        Transliterated, it’s FYTW.

      2. Ignorantia juris non excusat

        Only for the little people; that doesn’t apply to the King’s Men.

    2. I wish. we have a new federal form to complete that has a 1900 page rulebook.

  7. I know the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, but…really?

  8. would create harsh new criminal liabilities for websites and publishers, allow federal agents to censor online ads, make it harder for adult sex workers of all sorts to safely connect with clients, drive traffickers further underground, and potentially expose anyone advertising online to new privacy infringements.

    So what’s not to like ?

  9. here’s the cunt who sponsored this shitty legislation that will make prostitutes less safe:

    1. So the old man was playing around and she’s pissed off?

      1. Well, the $40,000 in plastic surgery didn’t stop it, this is plan B.

        1. She looks a bit long in the tooth to have recourse to Plan B.

          1. Hey, if hookers are stamped out, that flapping, sandpapery snatch starts to look a little more appealing.

    2. skip the tar and feathers AND the noose and go directly to crucifixion

      1. I’m starting to feel the same way.

      2. Actually, maybe that should be a feature of the Constitution. Any time a federal law is judged unconstitutional, all of the law’s living sponsors are crucified. And the crucifixion is televised.

        1. Too jewish.

    3. Yep. My idiot brother works for her and helped push this legislation. He is a wannabee fascist who is everything wrong with the Republican Party and government in general.

      1. I’m sorry for you Greg.

      2. In the interest of liberty, please take him aside at Thanksgiving and explain black markets.

        1. In the interest of liberty, please take him aside at Thanksgiving and…

          Thought you were going in a completely different direction with this.

          1. explaining black markets is a euphemism.

          2. Me too, I thought it was going to end with “…shoot him.”

          3. ..get him a prostitute got beat out by the econ lesson.

            1. I’m thinking there’s a pretty clear way to give him a lesson in economics, blackmail, politics, and irony.

            2. Get him an economist prostitute to do both at the same time.

              1. You mean Krugman?

        2. Statist control freaks actually like black markets since they can indirectly control them through enforcement, without having to condone them.

  10. Imagine the DOJ playing whack-a-mole as new euphemisms are constantly invented to skirt the law.

    Would you like a “front side boneless on the squeeb-squab ?”

  11. It should be illegal to use kids to pass laws.

    1. “We now call this session of the child parliment to order.”

      1. Pass the popsicles and let’s get some damn playgrounds built, bitches.

  12. If the agency determined that something was a potential euphemism or “code word”

    Easily done. Everything is a fucking *potential* euphemism. 8-(

    1. And since we are now assured that laws mean whatever someone wants them to mean, why you are perfectly….

      What? What’s that officer? No, I didn’t say that, I said….
      What do you mean that’s prohibited????

    2. Everything is also a potential *fucking* euphemism – so there’s that.

        1. Given that ‘roger’ was once a euphemism for ‘fuck’, we’re going to have to lock up an awful lot of guys for using their own names. And their mothers for referring to them.
          Likewise teachers taking roll, administrators given oaths, keeping voter registration records, why, the list is endless!
          No wonder the slavers love it.
          Roger that!

          1. And let’s not even start on guys named Richard.

    3. Except for when TOP MEN judge it isn’t.

  13. OT — There may be some merit to KSTP’s claim that the mayor of Minneapolis was indeed flashing a gang sign (though if so, unwittingly, IMHO).…..gordon.php

      1. I saw some vagina signs in there, man, which is always mighty fine.

        1. That would be those girls who are part of the Bloods. But only for about a week per month.

        2. What signs?

          Like, “Slippery When Wet”?

  14. In addition, any website, online service, or print publication that hosts any content falling under the bill’s definition as an “adult advertisement” would be required to obtain photo identification from anyone posting the content.

    This is clearly a ubiquitous content-control bill hidden under the fa?ade of anti-sex trafficking.

    This is not even about censorship, if you want to believe that is all it is. The vagueness of the language in the bill would give untold powers to government to shut down ANY website and fine ANYONE it deems undesirable, with the mere accusation of non-compliance even if the owner complied with the law as best he could. The bill brings the ability to government to destroy anyone who dares cross the path of government and happens to use advertisement to pay for their hobby (bloggers, Facebook sites, etc.)

    This bill is extremely dangerous and I hope it does not pass the legislature. But if it does, God help us all.

    1. There is the hope that the courts will smack it down. Legislators often pass egregious laws to give the appearance of having done something, while knowing full well those laws won’t survive court challenges.

      However, that takes time, lives will be ruined, freedom abrogated and you often get a narrowly-tailored ruling that only overturns specific parts of the law. It’s like a pi?ata – it often takes several whacks to break it.

  15. many sites would simply start requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to post an ad. Don’t have one or don’t want to share that info? You can’t sell your washer or advertise your pet-sitting services.

    I joyously await all the soccer mom listservs coming to a screeching halt from this foreseen consequence.

    1. Wait, isn’t requiring ID racist?

  16. Mens rea is so quaint.

  17. Is this the same Dianne Feinstein who admitted the ADA went in directions she never intended?

    1. Which absolves her of having helped to pass it. Because only intentions matter.

  18. This requirement manages to threaten ample people’s privacy

    I finally looked up “SJW”, now you’ve got a new euphemism for me to try to figure out?

    1. Well, ample people do have some specific privacy concerns what with all those flaps and folds they have to, um, reveal during TSA screenings.


    The fact that they can propose laws like this that obviously make things far worse for sex workers and people go along with it is the most disappointing thing I’ve seen all day.

    1. Someone please reassure me that this doesn’t have a chance of passing in a billion years. PLEASE.

      1. Here’s your froggy, Mr. Lamarr.

  20. My classmate’s mother-in-law makes $73 every hour on the computer . She has been without work for five months but last month her check was $14391 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out.
    vi?????????sit hom?????????epage ?????

  21. my friend’s step-sister makes $62 every hour on the laptop . She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her income was $19712 just working on the laptop for a few hours. visit the site…


    1. Jobsfish seems to pay better than Netjob.

  22. Has any good ever come from the pen of DiFi?

  23. Oh, the irony of calling it “Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation” Act, when all anti-prostitution groups and a great number of anti-trafficking groups do is advertising victims of exploitation for their very own fund-raising purposes.

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