How Section 230 Helps Sex Trafficking Victims (and SESTA Would Hurt Them) (Guest Blog Post) 0

by guest blogger Alex F. Levy

[Eric’s introduction: Alex Levy teaches Human Trafficking and Human Markets at Notre Dame Law School. She has written a timely and provocative article, The Virtues of Unvirtuous Spaces, about Backpage and online sexual commerce.

A sample of the article: “allowing Internet platforms on which sexual services are brokered to thrive may be key to apprehending traffickers and recovering victims….it is nonsensical to hold Backpage accountable for what traffickers do with it (engage in sex trafficking) but to simultaneously refuse to credit it for what law enforcement does with it (apprehend traffickers and recover victims).” This passage also stood out:

The war on Internet platforms is pageantry: a kind of theater designed to satisfy people’s need to identify and fight bad guys without regard to nuance or long-term outcome. But from a tactical standpoint, it is more than a distraction. Censoring these platforms means forfeiting a resource that naturally facilitates the recovery of victims.

I recommend the article to anyone who is interested in the topic.

While it’s clear that the proposed Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 poses significant risks to free speech online, I think we should initially focus on SESTA’s efficacy. Will SESTA actually advance its goals? If the bill doesn’t help victims–or worse, hurts them–then it is bad policy, period, and we don’t even need to reach the collateral consequences it would also create. Sadly, the empirical support that SESTA will help sex trafficking victims is thin or non-existent. In this post, Alex explains how SESTA may *hurt* sex trafficking victims–which should make the bill a non-starter. ]


When courts first tackled the question of whether internet intermediaries should be held accountable for material they publish, they struggled to come up with the right analogy. Were computer networks more like bookstores, or like newspapers? Should they be treated like real property, like common carriers, like radio stations, or as something else altogether?

Congress finally addressed the issue in 1996. It found that the nature of the Internet called for an entirely new regulatory approach. Encouraging the proliferation of “political, educational, cultural, and entertainment services,” while minimizing the spread of “lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” material, required careful consideration of what, exactly, online intermediaries were in a position to do.

Congress was aware — adamant, even — that information shared on the Internet would need to be constrained in some way. But it was also aware that computer networks weren’t the right ones to do the job. If intermediaries were burdened with potential liability for all the speech they published, they’d only be able to publish as much as they could screen. So instead, Congress decided “to maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools,” to “empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material,” and to “ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws.” By passing Section 230, Congress entrusted a significant part of the regulation of the Internet to users, parents, and law enforcement.

More than two decades later, Section 230 allows people to do more than just set the terms of acceptable speech. It also empowers countless users — including the FBI, victim advocates, concerned citizens, family members, and nonprofit organizations, among others — to proactively fight atrocities such as human trafficking. By removing liability from internet intermediaries (such as Backpage), Section 230 enables intermediaries to serve as a natural pathway between victims and those who want to help them.

Due to its wide accessibility, Backpage has enabled people to find and recover family members (including with the help of journalists); nonprofits point to it as a resource for identifying and reaching out to victims; and scores of criminal indictments reveal its value as a point of connection between police and victims. Statistics also show how Section 230 may assist the fight against human trafficking: the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), among others, reports that the majority of child sex trafficking reported to them involve Backpage.

None of this should be surprising: after all, it stands to reason that victims whose services are advertised in more visible places, like Backpage, are more visible to everyone — and thus easier to recover. In this way, Backpage sets a trap for traffickers: lured by the prospect of reaching a large, centralized repository of customers, traffickers end up revealing themselves to law enforcement and victim advocates. There’s nothing to suggest that Backpage causes them to be victimized, but plenty of reason to believe that, without it, they would be much harder to find. Section 230 allows Backpage to serve as a lifeline between trafficking victims and those who want to usher them to safety.


Nevertheless, the story is often told differently, with Backpage cast as a bad actor. The same advocates who talk about finding victims on Backpage often blame Backpage for their victimization, despite the fact that there’s no evidence of a causal connection between Backpage and sex trafficking (and indeed, there are good reasons to doubt that sex trafficking has skyrocketed in recent years, as many dramatically claim). But according to their version of the narrative, the fact that trafficking victims tend to turn up on Backpage means that Backpage is to blame for their harm — but, confusingly, not their recovery.

These advocates note, correctly, that Section 230 is crucial to Backpage’s functioning. The reason that Backpage can shine a light on human trafficking is because, thanks to Section 230, it can’t be punished for what it merely reveals. It’s crucial to note, however, that Backpage is legally accountable for what it does. Not only does Section 230 explicitly state that nothing about it “shall be construed to impair the enforcement of…any…Federal criminal statute,” but Congress specifically expanded human trafficking laws in 2015 to prohibit knowingly advertising (or knowingly benefitting from one who knowingly advertises) human trafficking. That’s all to say that if Backpage is trafficking people — or knowingly advertising human trafficking — the DOJ already has all the tools it needs to prosecute it.

But while Backpage isn’t allowed to traffic people, Section 230 currently prevents it from getting in trouble for shining a light on human trafficking. That’s the crucial distinction at the heart of Section 230, and it’s the provision that proves most infuriating to those who insist that causing victims to disappear from Backpage is going to somehow return them to safety. Because of Section 230, people who try to sue Backpage for simply revealing trafficking have been unsuccessful (if they could show that Backpage had engaged in trafficking, their suits would not be dismissed).

In order to get trafficking victims to stop appearing on Backpage, these advocates call for legislation to limit its Section 230 protection. Their most recent move is the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017” (“SESTA”), introduced in the Senate in early August. Among other things, SESTA would allow people to directly sue Backpage (and other intermediaries) for damages for human trafficking — even if Backpage didn’t do anything more than shine a light. If this passes, Backpage’s rational response would be to shut down its dating ads, and maybe even more. (Its “escort” section already shut down, months ago, but, as one journalist remarked, and as any quick search of Backpage will tell, commercial sex ads migrated to “casual encounters” immediately afterwards.)  In other words, it will be forcing Backpage to censor its content, and causing traffickers to bring their victims to darker places. It is far less likely that family members, journalists, and nonprofit organizations will know where to find them when they do.

In my recent article entitled The Virtues of Unvirtuous Spaces, I wrote:

Backpage’s usefulness to antitrafficking advocates is, in fact, fully compatible with a profit-seeking approach. This is because Backpage’s value to traffickers as a means of gaining more customers and its value to law enforcement as a means of accessing and recovering more victims rise and fall together. Put differently, traffickers and law enforcement assess the value of Backpage with reference to the same characteristics, namely, accessibility and visibility of ads.

While more visibility invites more business, it also increases the possibility that victims will be discovered by law enforcement, or anyone else looking for them. By extension, it also makes it more likely that the trafficker himself will be apprehended: exposure to customers necessarily means exposure to law enforcement. This is true with respect to both the number and content of the posts. Any attempts to evade law enforcement will likely reduce profits; if traffickers avoid posting pictures of their victims’ faces, for example, their chances of attracting customers—who value information about the provider’s appearance—also drop.

Section 230 doesn’t cause lawlessness. Rather, it creates a space in which many things — including lawless behavior — come to light. And it’s in that light that multitudes of organizations and people have taken proactive steps to usher victims to safety and apprehend their abusers.

SESTA wouldn’t make Backpage more accountable for what it does — it already is subject to the same criminal laws as the rest of us, and courts have held that its civil immunity is limited to its functions as a publisher. What SESTA would do is make Backpage accountable for what it reveals. This would ultimately force Backpage to turn off the light, which, of course wouldn’t reduce trafficking; it would just shuttle it out of view. And it’s especially dangerous to confuse a problem’s disappearance with its resolution when, as here, it’s visibility that often leads to victims’ recovery.

Source: Eric Goldman Legal

Hubsters Makin’ Moves: Kate Hrdina, Associate Product Manager 0

When Kate Hrdina moved to Austin to join the Main Street Hub Team, she was excited to have the opportunity to give back to local businesses — like the one her father owned for 34 years.

Over her past three years with the company, she’s made an impact on our customers in more ways than one. Kate joined us as a Community Manager and is currently a member of our Product Team.

Get to know Kate, and learn how she used her skills to transition her career:

Tell us about yourself!

“I was born and raised in Columbia, Missouri. I studied Food and Wine Journalism at the University of Missouri and then moved down to Austin after landing a job with Main Street Hub. I don’t have a dog, but if I did, it would be a Golden Retriever. I love to cook and bake, and I have the travel bug 24/7.”

What drew you to Main Street Hub?

“I loved the mission — to create thriving local economies. I grew up in Columbia, Missouri, which has a really vibrant local scene. My dad has been a small business owner for 34 years, and lots of my close family friends are local business owners. It’s important to feel passionate about what you’re doing every day, and three years later, that’s still true for me.”

Associate Project Manager Chelsea Poe (left) and Kate (right) after graduating from SemiPro

What roles have you held here?

“I started out as a Community Manager, and a few months in, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to pilot our Customer Request Team. I eventually built that into a full-scale team and started my first role in management as the team lead. At the same time, I also participated in our SemiPro program, which is a product bootcamp of sorts. After graduating from the program, I transitioned into a full-time Associate Product Manager role. That’s where I am now!”

What was your favorite part of each role you’ve had here?

“Oh man, every team I’ve been part of has been amazing! As a Community Manager I was completely blown away by the creativity of the people around me. I loved being constantly inspired by my witty, brilliant teammates and trying new strategies with my writing.

“As part of the Customer Requests Team, I loved being at the forefront of building out something new. I learned that even with a small team, if you’ve got passionate, dedicated people, you can make amazing things happen.

“On the Product Team, I love that I get to collaborate with and learn from so many people across the company on a daily basis — from Engineering and Product Design to Operations and Sales Leadership.”

“Honestly, the teams here are incredible.”

What’s one thing you’ve learned that’s applied to all of your roles?

Take Ownership for whatever you’re working on, big or small. Apply a critical eye to what you’re doing, and find ways to make it better. No matter how uncomfortable it is, be honest when you make a mistake, and ask for help. That’s the only way you’ll grow.”

Is there anything that surprised you when you transitioned into different roles?

“As I’ve been on different teams, I’ve seen some of the challenges we face as a company from new perspectives. There are so many ways to look at the same problem.”

Advice for someone who wants to transfer internally?

“1. Meet people and learn what they do every day. I had no idea what product management was before starting here. I got the opportunity to work with Alyssa Bernstein (Senior Product Manager) and OJ Hornung (Lead Designer) on some projects as part of the Customer Requests Team, and I just started picking their brains about the Product Team. I became really interested in product and took every opportunity to participate or just get advice from people on that team.

“2. Read. A lot. Find books in the company library that talk about other roles. Ask for article recommendations on topics you want to learn about. Get your hands on materials that other people have published — not only will it teach you about other roles, but it’ll teach you how other people and companies outside Main Street Hub think about that role.”

What’s your favorite small business, and why?

Papalote Taco House on South Lamar. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall spot that has the best tacos, no matter what the occasion. Need a post-yoga breakfast taco? Papalote. Feeling tired after a long day at Barton Springs? Papalote. You get the point. Order the Alambres on corn. Actually, order two. And don’t forget the homemade red salsa in the fridge.”

Want to take the next step in your career? Check out our current job openings, and apply!

We love helping Hubsters grow their careers! Get to know Will Harrington, who transitioned from being a Platform Specialist to an Account Manager here, and Olivia Brown, who transitioned from being a Sales Representative to a Recruiting Coordinator here.

Don’t miss Main Street Hub’s next move — follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram!

Hubsters Makin’ Moves: Kate Hrdina, Associate Product Manager was originally published in Main Street Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Main Street Hub

5 Tips to Help Show ROI from Local SEO 0

Posted by JoyHawkins

Earlier this year, when I was first writing my advanced local SEO training, I reached out to some users who work for local SEO agencies and asked them what they’d like more training on. The biggest topic I got as a result was related to tracking and reporting value to small business owners.

My clients will often forward me reports from their prior SEO company, expressing that they have no idea what they were getting for their money. Some of the most common complaints I see with these reports are:

  • Too much use of marketing lingo (“Bounce Rate,” “CTR,” etc.)
  • Way too much data
  • No representation of what impact the work done had on the business itself (did it get them more customers?)

If a small business owner is giving you hundreds or thousands of dollars every month, how do you prove to them they’re getting value from it? There’s a lot to dig into with this topic — I included a full six pages on it in my training. Today I wanted to share some of the most successful tips that I use with my own clients.

1. Stop sending automated Google Analytics reports

If the goal is to show the customer what they’re getting from their investment, you probably won’t achieve it by simply sending them an Analytics report each month. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it only looks awesome to you because you’re a marketer. Over the past year, I’ve looked at many monthly reports that made my head spin — it’s just too much data. The average SMB isn’t going to be able to look at those reports and figure out how their bounce rate decreasing somehow means you’re doing a great job at SEO.

2. Make conversions the focus of your report

What does the business owner care about? Hint: it’s not how you increased the ranking for one of their 50 tracked keywords this month. No, what they care about is how much additional business you drove to their business. This should be the focus of the report you send them. Small business call conversions

3. Use dynamic number insertion to track calls

If you’re not already doing this, you’re really killing your ability to show value. I don’t have a single SEO or SEM client that isn’t using call tracking. I use Call Tracking Metrics, but CallRail is another one that works well, too. This allows you to see the sources of incoming calls. Unlike slapping a call tracking number on your website, dynamic number insertion won’t mess up NAP consistency.

The bonus here is that you can set up these calls as goals in Google Analytics. Using the Landing Page report, you can see which pages on the site were responsible for getting that call. Instead of saying, “Hey customer, a few months ago I created this awesome page of content for you,” you can say “Hey customer, a few months ago, I added this page to your site and as a result, it’s got you 5 more calls.”
Conversion goal completion in Google Analytics

4. Estimate revenue

I remember sitting in a session a couple years ago when Dev Basu from Powered by Search told me about this tactic. I had a lightbulb moment, wondering why the heck I didn’t think to do this before.

The concept is simple: Ask the client what the average lifetime value of their customer is. Next, ask them what their average closing ratio is on Internet leads. Take those numbers and, based on the number of conversions, you can calculate their estimated revenue.

Formula: Lifetime Value of a Customer x Closing Ratio (%) x Number of Conversions = Estimated Revenue

Bonus tip: Take this a step further and show them that for every dollar they pay you, you make them $X. Obviously, if the lifetime value of the customer is high, these numbers look a lot better. For example, an attorney could look like this:Example monthly ROI for an attorneyWhereas an insurance agent would look like this:
Example monthly ROI for an insurance agent

5. Show before/after screenshots, not a ranking tracker.

I seriously love ranking trackers. I spend a ton of time every week looking at reports in Bright Local for my clients. However, I really believe ranking trackers are best used for marketers, not business owners. How many times have you had a client call you freaking out because they noticed a drop in ranking for one keyword? I chose to help stop this trend by not including ranking reports in my monthly reporting and have never regretted that decision.

Instead, if I want to highlight a significant ranking increase that happened as a result of SEO, I can do that by showing the business owner a visual — something they will actually understand. This is where I use Bright Local’s screenshots; I can see historically how a SERP used to look versus how it looks now.

At the end of the day, to show ROI you need to think like a business owner, not a marketer. If your goals match the goals of the business owner (which is usually to increase calls), make sure that’s what you’re conveying in your monthly reporting.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Source: Moz

How to Identify (and Remove) Fake Online Business Reviews 0

Are Fake Online Reviews Hurting your Business? Find out what you can do about it.   What to do if your Business is being Attacked by Fake Reviews The Internet has become an essential part of our lives. Almost everything we do is connected to the Internet in some way or another. When people want […]

The post How to Identify (and Remove) Fake Online Business Reviews appeared first on Defamation Removal Law.

Source: Aaron Minc

LinkedIn Connection Request Doesn’t Violate Non-Solicitation Clause—Bankers Life v. American Senior Benefits 0

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 8.15.42 AMThis is another case considering when LinkedIn activity violates a non-solicitation clause. Bankers Life, a company that sells insurance and financial products, sued one of its ex-employees (and his new employer, ASB) alleging among other things that the ex-employee violated his non-solicitation covenant through his communications on social media. Here’s the clause defendant Gelineau agreed to:

During the term of this Contract and for 24 months thereafter, within the territory regularly serviced by the Manager’s branch sales office, the Manager shall not, personally or through the efforts of others, induce or attempt to induce:

(a) any agent, branch sales manager, field vice president, employee, consultant, or other similar representative of the Company to curtail, resign, or sever a relationship with the company;

(b) any agent, branch sales manager, field vice president or employee of the Company to contract with or sell insurance business with any company not affiliated with the company, or

(c) any policyholder of the company to relinquish, surrender, replace, or lapse any policy issued by the company.

Gelineau’s alleged violation? He sent LinkedIn requests to three Bankers Life employees who could “then click on to Gelineau’s profile and . . . see a job posting for ASB.” Bankers Life also alleged that Gelineau instructed another ASB employee to solicit Bankers Life employees, but the court found Bankers Life’s evidence insufficient with respect to this claim.

In response to the argument that the LinkedIn requests sent by Gelineau violated his non-solicitation clause, Gelineau says that he never sent any direct messages to any of the Bankers Life employees:

Instead, Gelineau stated that all of the individuals on his e-mail contact list were sent LinkedIn generic e-mails asking them to form a professional connection on social media.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Gelineau on this point, and the appeals court affirms. The court looks to other cases dealing with social media communications that allegedly violate non-solicitation clauses and finds that the content and substance of the communications control. A general posting to connect or an announcement about a job change when announced to a network will not suffice to violate the typical non-solicitation clause. The court says in this case the emails were “generic” and contained no discussion of Bankers Life or of ASB or an exhortation to view the job announcement in question. “Instead, the e-mails contained the request to form a professional networking connection.” In addition, they were not direct messages and were merely communications that were sent to all individuals on Gelineau’s contact list.

This case is a nice complement to the Mobile Mini case I blogged about last month. There, the posts in question were essentially sales pitches, and the court says they likely violate the non-solicitation clause, whether sent as direct messages or not. Here, the LinkedIn messages had no call to action other than to connect. So it’s not unexpected that the court finds there is no violation.

It’s surprising to see an employer think that a generic “let’s connect!” email campaign could violate a non-solicitation clause. But Bankers Life did, and the court rightly shut it down.

Case citation: Bankers Life and Casualty Company v. American Senior Benefits LLC, et al., 2017 IL App (1st) 160687 (Aug. 7, 2017).

Related posts:

Job Posting to LinkedIn Group Doesn’t Violate Non-Solicitation Clause — Enhanced Network Solutions v. Hypersonic Technologies

‘Blatant Sales Pitch’ on LinkedIn Likely Violates Non-solicitation Clause–Mobile Mini v. Vevea

Source: Eric Goldman Legal