The Signing of FOSTA/SESTA

Screenshot saying the Backpage.com has been seized by the feds

Hey all, it’s been a while.

As you hopefully know – but if my facebook feed is any indication, you likely don’t – FOSTA/SESTA was signed yesterday in the US. This, combined with the CLOUD Act, is already resulting in extreme danger for sex workers (and basically everyone who uses the internet at all).

What are FOSTA/SESTA and the CLOUD Act?

A map of the world except with pictures of red umbrellas forming the earth. Red umbrellas signify sex work.
Photo courtesy of NSWP.org

On the surface, FOSTA is an anti-trafficking bill. Obviously I’m in favor of ending trafficking. What the law actually does, among other things, is make sites themselves directly responsible for users’ content, specifically in relation to sex. It also conflates sex work and sex trafficking, making the brunt of the law hit sex workers, and targets “facilitation” of sex work (sharing safety tips, active ad sites, bad date lists, etc). Read more here!

The CLOUD Act also happened at the same time, which is explained in depth here, but basically talks about how it doesn’t matter if your site is hosted overseas, the States can still get you in trouble for your content if they want, even if you’re not a US citizen or live in the US.

These two things have already had terrifying consequences, especially for sex workers, because sites have decided it’s best to ban all the things now rather than risk letting anything fall through the cracks. And because sites don’t care about sex workers, so this is an easy excuse to lock us out.

(Some) Reprecautions so Far

Keep in mind that the law was only just signed, so things will be getting worse. The annoying thing is that people are proving once again that they don’t care when sex workers say things are harming us. It’s not an issue until it starts harming more “respectable” people. Well these laws are. But I’m going to focus on sex workers anyway because this is literally killing us and you should care about our lives. This is far from an exhaustive list of all the changes that have happened so far (some of these things are allegedly unrelated, but the timing is suspect).

  • Screenshot saying the Backpage.com has been seized by the fedsEscort/dating platforms have shut down or been raided – backpage is entirely gone, craigslist personals section has been pulled, furry dating sites have closed, Reddit has closed sex work related channels, sites like The Erotic Review, VeryfyHim, Hung Angels, YourDominatrix, and Yellow Pages that helped SWers screen and work safely shut down discussion boards, ad platforms, and forums. Other sites, like MyFreeCams, have changed their policies to ban any talk about transactions of any kind.
  • Fetlife has banned sex work, but only certain kinds (so far), and it’s unclear how that’s going to be policed
  • Microsoft changed its terms of service, so now nudity¬† and “inappropriate content” is banned…on skype, Xbox live, newer version of Word, etc – meaning if you have skype sex with your partner or write about sexually explicit things, you could be banned
  • Google started locking people out of their Drive and deleting porn, which was apparently an error?
  • Eventbrite has doubled-down on sexuality-related events
  • Indie sex toy stores are being blocked from using Google Ad Words
  • And more!

That’s a Depressing Pile of Garbage, But What Can I Do?

Wow, I’m glad you asked! That’s really thoughtful, and there’s a lot of ideas! I’m going to break it up into sections for you. Keep in mind that the more marginalized a worker is, the harder it’ll hit them. Workers in the States are getting the brunt of things, but people worldwide are all being hit and struggling not to go under.

Money

Be Decent People to/about Us

This should be obvious, but it clearly isn’t.

  • Check in on us. Everything is overwhelming and hard and most of our communities are acting like nothing is happening and that makes us feel isolated and unimportant. Ask us how we are. Ask what kind of support we’d like from you
  • Listen to what we’re saying. Don’t offer suggestions for what we should do if we haven’t asked. Don’t tell us that it’ll be okay or it’s not that bad or we’ll find other sites. It is this bad.
  • A drawing of a red umbrella, under which says "only rights can stop the wrongs"
    Photo courtesy of NSWP.org

    Speak up when you hear people say shitty things about sex workers. I don’t care how uncomfortable it is for you – trust me, it’s much more uncomfortable being a closeted/out sex worker in a room full of people laughing at you.

  • Talk about sex work in general. Help normalize it. Help make sex work less stigmatized.
  • Remember that not only are we struggling to keep our work, our homes, our bills paid, but also to make literally any non sex worker we know care about what’s happening. Or to even know about it. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausting. I don’t want to be writing this post, I don’t want to think about it anymore, I don’t want to even consider how much work (and wasted money) I still have to do to even attempt to salvage my career of 6 years. Just be kind to us.

Sharing

  • Recommend our services to a friend – literally get us work
  • Share our content (don’t just ‘like’ it). Our ads, our thoughts on this BS, our videos, monthly subscription sites, everything.
  • Does your job get you discounts/free things that you can share? Literally for anything from stuff we need for work to necessities to impulse items is helpful
  • Do you have a place for us to sleep if we end up homeless?
  • Do you have (free) space that we can work out of?
  • Do you have skills that you can donate to us or give at a discounted rate? Some that are useful right now – babysitting (esp when we have work), legal advice, tech/security (online or irl) skills, massage, social media/advertising/branding
  • Help us build new websites, host our sites, etc offshore – esp on private servers
  • Are you someone who can build an app or an ad site? We need those
  • Be our safe call or driver
  • Research what sites are still around in your area and make that info available to your networks – but remember; sharing resources to/for sex workers now counts as “facilitating prostitution”
  • Take new ad photos/videos for us
  • Write us a review, if we want one – please do not publish a review unless you are 100% sure the worker wants you to!

Petitions

Petitions take like 30 seconds to fill out. They likely won’t result in anything actually happening, so signing them and doing nothing else doesn’t cut it, but they won’t hurt.

If you want to call yourself an ally, you need to prove it, and you need to do so now.

Sex workers: what else would help you right now?

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