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Woodhull Freedom Found. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

September 20, 2019, Argued; January 24, 2020, Decided

No. 18-5298

Opinion

 [*367]  Rogers, Circuit Judge: The district court dismissed a pre-enforcement challenge to a federal statute reflecting Congress's continual goal of protecting minors online while promoting a free and open internet upon concluding that no plaintiff had demonstrated standing under Article III of the Constitution. Upon review, we hold for the following reasons that at least two of the plaintiffs, among the appellants before this court, have demonstrated their standing.

This case relates to Congress's ongoing effort to protect minors online while promoting a free and open internet. To this end, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996. The Act prohibited the transmission of obscene and indecent speech online in order to protect minors from being exposed to sexually explicit materials. 47 U.S.C. §§ 223(a), (d); see generally Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 117 S. Ct. 2329, 138 L. Ed. 2d 874 (1997). The Act also sought to protect the entities that publish the online speech of others in order "to promote the continued development of the Internet" and "to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists." 47 U.S.C. § 230(b)(1)-(2). Section 230 shields interactive computer service providers from being treated "as the publisher or speaker" of any content that is posted by users of the site, id. § 230(c)(1), except where the published [**5]  user content violates federal law, id. § 230(e)(1), including 47 U.S.C. § 223, relating to obscenity, and 18 U.S.C. § 110, relating to the sexual exploitation of children. It defines "interactive computer service" as "any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server . . . ." 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2).

In 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, codified as relevant at 18 U.S.C. § 1591, to prohibit the sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion. In 2003, Congress authorized victims of sex trafficking to file civil actions. 18 U.S.C. § 1595.

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948 F.3d 363 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 2217 **; 2020 WL 398625

WOODHULL FREEDOM FOUNDATION, ET AL., APPELLANTS v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND WILLIAM P. BARR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, APPELLEES

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:18-cv-01552).

Woodhull Freedom Found. v. United States, 334 F. Supp. 3d 185, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163292 (D.D.C., Sept. 24, 2018)

CORE TERMS

sex, prostitution, website, Craigslist, online, trafficking, advertisements, proscribed, Rescue, promoting, internet, district court, pre-enforcement, facilitates, terms, human rights, abetting, sexual, computer service, organizations, interactive, colleagues, Archive, publish, easier, users, third party, redressability, providers, advocacy

Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Standing, Elements, Business & Corporate Compliance, Content Regulation, Computer & Internet Law, Content Regulation