SESTA/FOSTA Has Caused A Global Anti-Climax For Sex Workers! What Is It And How Does It Affect You?



The Adult Industry is one of the most dynamic global industries known for delivering pleasure, romance and comfort to many be that through discreet encounters, solo and couple delights through sex toys; as well as wild encounters at SOP venues.

One of the most important things in the promotion and marketing toolbox for Adult Industry businesses, professional escorts and legally trading bordellos is Social Media and the ability to promote across Marketplace Platforms (ideally; where their target market - their key clientele are going to be).

Recently, the SESTA/FOSTA legislation came into effect subject to the passing of legislation thanks to the Living and Breathing Cheetoh himself; Donald Tramp... Sorry, I meant Donald Trump (I am trying to keep this post subjective, but I do need to interject a little bit of humour considering legislation has been passed by media's Manwhore and Patronising, Narcissistic Womaniser).

Sex Workers, Adult Businesses and Bordellos - here's what you need to know about SESTA/FOSTA:

  • FOSTA/SESTA is a bill that was drafted in an attempt to combat online sex trafficking in the United States, but the bill conflates sex trafficking with consensual sex work.

  • If you are an Australian sex worker and have a website, it should not be affected if it is not hosted in the US (ask us to check this for you, free!).

  • If your ads are hosted with an online directory, contact them to ensure their website is not hosted in the US, and that they do not promote escort services for the US. (contact us if you have questions or need some guidance).

  • Always ensure your ads comply with the advertising and marketing laws for sex work advertising, which vary from state to state, country to country (if you need help with understanding the law or guidance on advertising ask an expert).

FOSTA, which was passed by the House of Representatives on February 27 2018, is a combination of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). FOSTA/SESTA was created in an attempt to combat online sex trafficking in the US, but the legislation wrongly conflates sex trafficking with consensual sex work. Essentially, the legislation will make websites hosted in the US, criminally responsible if they can be seen as facilitating sex work (including consensual sex work), by making a change to a key part of the Communications Decency Act.

Donald Trump signed the controversial bill into law on Monday 9th April 2018, and the FOSTA/SESTA has already had a destabilising and devastating effect on sex workers around the world.

Aside from wide political support and advocation from the religious right, some celebrities have spoken out in support of SESTA, including Amy Schumer and Seth Meyers, who went as far as to make a PSA about it. At the same time, many sex workers and advocates for trafficking victims have spoken out against FOSTA/SESTA, arguing it will make these vulnerable populations less safe. 

Prior to the introduction of the bill, adult performer Lorelei Lee posted to her followers on Instagram: 

“This bill claims to target human trafficking, but does so by creating new penalties for online platforms that are overwhelmingly used by consensual, adult sex workers to screen clients, to share “bad date lists,” to work indoors, and to otherwise communicate with each other about ways to stay alive. Data shows that access to these online platforms decreases violence against sex workers, but I don’t need data to know that my friends are safer with the ability to screen clients, to share information, and to work indoors. In 2006, my friend Sequoia was stabbed and killed by a client while working alone and outdoors. I know that supporters of these bills want to end violence against women and against marginalised people of all genders. So do I. SESTA will only increase violence against the most marginalised.”

By attempting to hold liable the tiny minority of those platforms whose users do shitty things, FOSTA/SESTA does real harm to the majority, who will likely be subject to online censorship. 

Adult performer Janice Griffith told Vice Magazine, “Under SESTA/FOSTA there is no true differentiation between consensual sex work and trafficking—because many lawmakers do not see sex work as real work and dehumanise us strictly because of the CONSENSUAL business we take part in. There is no such thing as nonconsensual sex work—that is slavery, trafficking, whatever you want to call it—it isn’t work, sex work contains consent and autonomy. Just as forced labor of any other kind is not employment, sex slavery is not sex work.”

FOSTA/SESTA stems from a two-year inquiry into popular classified advertising website backpage.com, which has been linked to illegal sex trafficking. The site was seized and shut down by the Justice Department Saturday. 

Online censorship isn’t the solution to fighting sex trafficking. Sex trafficking needs to be addressed but will punishing the forums on which sex workers find community and safety be effective in preventing sex trafficking? We think not.

SO WHAT IS FOSTA/SESTA?

FOSTA/SESTA is a bill that was drafted in an attempt to combat online sex trafficking in the United States. SESTA is in theory, supposed to aid the victims of human sex trafficking. The bill means that victims of human trafficking will be able to sue the websites their abusers may have used to communicate with one another.

According to the StopSesta.org website, the FOSTA will: 

  • Expand existing federal criminal sex trafficking law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. Platform owners could be prosecuted under the expanded law even if they didn’t know that people were using those platforms for sex trafficking purposes.

  • Open online platforms to new criminal and civil liability for sex trafficking at both the federal and state levels.

  • Expand federal criminal prostitution law to cover those who use the Internet to “promote or facilitate prostitution.” Many platforms would feel pressured to become more restrictive in their treatment of sexual speech.

  • Change the law retroactively: an online platform could be prosecuted under state law or held civilly liable for sex trafficking for failing to comply with the law before it passed.

WHAT IS SECTION 230?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will be amended to note that websites can be prosecuted if they engage in the “promotion of facilitation of prostitution” or "facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.” The supporters have framed Section 230 as a loophole which allows websites to profit from forums which “knowingly assist, facilitate, or support sex trafficking.” The range of online services protected by Section 230, and thus hurt by FOSTA, is massive, and includes review sites, online marketplaces, discussion boards, ISPs, even news publications with comment sections.

WE KNOW SEX TRAFFICKING IS AWFUL. SO WHAT IS SO BAD ABOUT THE FOSTA/SESTA LEGISLATION?

FOSTA/SESTA incorrectly defines sex work and sex trafficking as one thing. When Rentboy and myRedbook were raided 2015, many sex workers who were able to use the service to screen clients and get the names of dangerous clients were forced to go onto the street, removing their means of pre-screening and safety. 

The implications of the law go beyond trafficking though, as consensual sex workers may be charged with facilitating prostitution if they are seen in online forums exchanging safety information such as bad client lists or sex work survival and safety tips (if the sites are hosted in the US). The threat of prosecution has already led to a number of forums shutting down prior to the bill being made, including subreddits: Escorts, Male Escorts, Hookers, and SugarDaddy. None of the forums were described as for advertising and were mainly used by sex workers to offer advice, support and communicate with each other. 

The bill means that even people who have left the sex industry could find themselves banned from online platforms if they have openly discussed their work years prior. 

It’s anticipated that the bill will only drive sex trafficking underground and punish the consensual sex workers who choose to work on the own free will. 

Bizarrely, some of the discussions most likely to be censored could be those by and about victims of sex trafficking.

HOW DOES SESTA AFFECT AUSTRALIAN SEX WORKERS AND ADULT BUSINESSES INCLUDING BROTHELS?

Australian escorts should start by making sure their websites and online advertising are hosted with companies that have received approval to publish the advertising of adult and escort services, and that do not promote escort services for the US. Australian sex workers and Australian online directories should also ensure they comply with the Australian laws for sex work advertising, which vary from state to state.

Get Help Protecting Your Adult Business and Independent Escort Brand From Damaging Results of The FOSTA/SESTA Legislation Contact Our Experts

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