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Attorney General Josh Stein Urges Congress to Uphold States’ Ability to Protect People Online

Release date: 5/23/2019

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today called on Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act to make sure that state and local authorities are able to protect people online and take appropriate actions against criminal actors who violate state laws related to black market opioid sales, identity theft, and election meddling.


“As Attorney General, it’s my responsibility to protect the people of North Carolina from bad actors who try to harm them in person or online,” said Attorney General Stein. “The dark web is full of heinous criminal activity that must be stopped. I urge Congress to amend this law so we can continue enforcing our state’s laws and keeping people safe online.”


The Communication Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was designed to encourage the growth of the internet by promoting free expression, particularly on online message boards. The Act was intended to allow companies who sponsor message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts. But due to a misinterpretation of Section 230 of the Act, some federal court opinions have interpreted it so broadly that individuals and services that knowingly aid and profit from illegal activity have evaded prosecution.


The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (known as FOSTA-SESTA) was signed into law in 2018, making clear that the CDA’s immunity does not apply to enforcement of federal or state sex trafficking laws. Unfortunately, the abuse on these platforms does not stop at sex trafficking, but includes harmful illegal activity such as online black market opioid sales, identity theft, and election meddling.


The coalition of 47 attorneys general argue that criminal activity that occurs online cannot be relegated only to federal enforcement. They note that, “Attorneys General must be allowed to address these crimes themselves and fulfill our primary mandate to protect our citizens and enforce their rights.” Attorneys general have addressed this issue with Congress before – Attorney General Stein was part of a coalition of attorneys general that wrote to Congress in 2017 to request an amendment to the CDA.


Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


A copy of the letter is available here.

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484



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