M Jenny Edwards
SME, Animal Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
Warning: This site features works in progress, insights on current research and cases, and other resources or topics related to bestiality and zoophilia. No graphic images are depicted; however, graphic or descriptive language may be used.
On March 19, the Senate passed H.R. 1865 – the Fight Online Sex Traffickers Act, or FOSTA which already passed the House in February – despite heated opposition.
Like most things related to the passage of laws, HR 1865 is not without complications, or even unintended consequences. The goal of FOSTA is to hold online publishers like Craigslist and Snapchat legally liable for content posted by users that results in prostitution. Sounds like a good idea, but here are the problems posed by the Department of Justice, social media sites, and sex workers, as well as one problem that has yet to be mentioned: these posts are a tool for law enforcement and investigative agents.
FOSTA amends Section 230 of the federal Communications and Decency act, which essentially protected websites from legal liability for user content. Social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, and Whatsapp, and online advertising sites like Craigslist or Etsy have millions of users, and while they have moderators who monitor their sites for illegal or inappropriate posts, it's simply not possible to catch every single one. Under FOSTA, individuals or states will be able to sue the content host (as opposed to the user) anytime anyone uses those sites to meet up with someone for the purpose of selling or buying sexual services.
Those who oppose FOSTA say it's an attempt to censor freedom of speech; that it eliminates support and safety networks for sex workers; that it will be costly for web hosts to hire additional moderators; that the bill is overly broad and there are already effective laws to prosecute sex traffickers. But what hasn't been mentioned is that it also destroys a tool for law enforcement to catch sexual predators as well as sex traffickers.
Suspicious ads don't just catch the attention of site moderators, they are also monitored by detectives and investigators who are keeping an eye out for solicitation of any illegal sex acts – not just the ones that are commercial. Ads seeking animals for sex have probably been posted in every single state; they certainly have been posted in FL, NY, VA, MA, TX, CA, and AZ where dozens of animal sexual predators have been caught after posting solicitation ads like this one online.
According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of users of online classified ad sites are 18-24. Studies have shown that the average age at which a boy or girl has their first sexual experience with an animal is around 13. Other studies suggest that the earlier a child is exposed to sexual activity with animals, the more likely they are to continue that behavior. Don't you want to have every tool possible to intervene?
Unintended consequences: the bill to fight online sex trafficking
by M. Jenny Edwards
March 24, 2018