Weâ€™ve written a few times about S 2536, the SAVE Act, which would place an incredible, almost impossible recordkeeping burden on any alt-weekly â€“ or anyone else â€“ who takes â€œadult advertisingâ€. While the bill is unlikely to be considered by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee or the entire Senate during the lame duck sessions occurring before the end of 2014, that hasnâ€™t stopped the billâ€™s sponsors from trying to move forward. As a result, we wonâ€™t stop pushing back against what we consider to be an ill-considered solution to a terrible problem.
On October 27, the SAVE Actâ€™s two main sponsors, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) circulated a â€œDear Colleagueâ€ letter to all members of the Senate asking them to co-sponsor the SAVE Act. The letter included as an attachment another letter, signed by the Attorney Generals of 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico (to save you the trouble, only Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen did not sign the letter). The Attorney General letter asks Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Minority Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) to pass the SAVE Act. The letter argues that various websites (specifically, Backpage.com) facilitate â€œtrafficking through their very business modelâ€ and claims that the SAVE Act will help stop such trafficking by requiring the sites to â€œtake steps to verify the identity of individuals posting advertisements and the age of those who appear in those advertisements.â€
As our earlier letter to the Judiciary Committee and our associated talking points note, these recordkeeping and notice requirements are unlikely to be successful in achieving those goals. However, they are likely to have a significant effect on free speech generally and on small businesses in particular. In fact, they may even make it more difficult to catch those engaged in trafficking.
While the SAVE Act may not move forward in this yearâ€™s Congress, we felt a need to respond to this â€œDear Colleagueâ€ letter. It is likely that the SAVE Act is reintroduced in 2015; any Senator who signs on as a co-sponsor now is likely to immediately do so upon re-introduction next year. AAN joined other organizations in a letter explaining our views, including the fact that the SAVE Act is unlikely to meet the supporterâ€™s goals but very likely that will cause severe harm to many who are also working very hard to stop trafficking, including many small businesses. While noting that we â€œstrongly support anti-trafficking measures that focus on providing support and services for the victimsâ€ and that â€œexisting federal law already criminalizes the actions of those who intentionally aid or abet a trafficking venture,â€ we reiterate that â€œthe SAVE Act would not be effective in preventing traffickers from using third-party online content hosts, and would create significant burdens on the free speech and privacy rights of millions of wholly innocent Americans who have no connection to trafficking whatsoever.â€
Thatâ€™s why AAN continues to actively oppose the SAVE Act and asks that you weigh in with your Senator to give them our side of the story in the hope that he or she does not co-sponsor the SAVE Act without fully considering its consequences.
Please do not hesitate to contact AAN Legal Counsel Kevin M. Goldberg at 703-812-0462 or goldberg[at]fhhlaw.com if you have any questions.