If you live in the United States and you ever took even a high-school level civics class, you probably ran across the concept of an ex post facto law. This refers to a situation where, if I’m in government and you do something legal that I don’t like, I make a law against it, I make that law retroactive, and then I use it to prosecute you for what you already did. That’s not how law works, and it’s not allowed.
But FOSTA contains this little tidbit:
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, and the amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, before, on, or after such date of enactment.
Whoops. I guess Mrs. Mimi Walters of California (the author of the text above) skipped civics class. To be fair to Mrs. Walters, the US Constitution is very vague on this point, and the language is convoluted and hard to follow. (“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” – Article 1, Section 9)
That’s not the only problem, nor is it only my opinion. The US Department of Justice agrees, raising “serious constitutional concern” about the ex post facto nature of the law and states that the is broader than necessary (meaning it criminalizes not only more than it needs to, but also more than the authors think it does). They are also concerned that despite making so much stuff illegal, this bill makes it harder to prosecute the actual sex traffickers.
When the Department of Justice tells you you’re making too much stuff illegal, obviously you take a step back and fix things… unless you’re the US House of Representatives.
In that case, you pass it as-is 388-25.
That’s right, the US House passed a bill that, our own liability concerns aside, makes it harder to prosecute sex traffickers, but criminalizes people speaking out against sex trafficking, including former victims. What the hell? Do sex traffickers suddenly have really good lobbyists?
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