Oracle breaks with tech industry in backing human trafficking bill

Oracle is one of the few in the tech industry backing a bipartisan bill to hold websites facilitating human trafficking legally accountable.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Robert Portman (R-OH), would amend a part of a 90’s era law (section 230) currently protecting social networking sites and online platforms such as Google and Facebook from being held legally liable for content shared by those on the site.

Classified ads site Backpage is currently using this shield to protect itself from being sued for third-party content on its site allegedly aiding illegal prostitution and selling children for sex.

However, the opposition fears the bill would open tech companies up to endless lawsuits and stifle digital innovation.

In August, a coalition of 10 trade associations and lobbying groups representing the tech industry sent a letter to Senators Blumenthal and Portman, telling them section 230 would “severely undermine a crucial protection for legitimate online companies, and would be counterproductive to those companies’ efforts to combat trafficking crimes.”

The next day, Google lobbyist Stewart Jeffries wrote a letter warning the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act would “seriously jeopardize the internet ecosystem.”

Baffled, Oracle senior vice president Kenneth Glueck wrote his own letter to senators Portman and Blumenthal.

“Your legislation does not, as suggested by the bill’s opponents, usher the end of the internet,” Glueck wrote. “If enacted, it will establish some measure of accountability for those that cynically sell advertising but are unprepared to help curtail sex trafficking.”

It should be noted, Oracle works in the cloud services space and, unlike Google and Facebook, does not deal in third-party content that would leave it open to lawsuits under the proposed amendment to the law.

Those in favor of the bill, which seems to have more than a quarter of the support in the Senate and is backed by 100 co-sponsors in the House, believe tech giants should be helping to end child sex trafficking, not digging in their heels. They argue these companies have the resources to combat this issue and that the bill is narrow enough in scope to not leave the them open to endless legal woes.

We are pleased with the growing support for the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, and welcome Oracle’s important voice to this effort,” Senator Portman wrote. “It is an acknowledgement that this simple, bipartisan bill is the right prescription for fixing a fundamental flaw in the law that has enabled online sex traffickers to escape justice.  It’s time for Congress to act on this bipartisan bill.”