Latest Linkwrap on FOSTA’s Aftermath

Some FOSTA-related links that have accumulated over the past few months:

Lucy Kahn, “Against FOSTA/SESTA: One Canary’s Cry From Inside the Coal Mine

Now that FOSTA/SESTA has been voted into law, I’ve literally seen my advertising platforms disappear before my eyes. Now, I’m forced to maintain an Internet presence mainly through Twitter and Instagram, which are inconsistent in their attitude towards sex workers, often shadow banning or outright closing our accounts without warning. In this precarious landscape, one has to always walk the line between enticement and discretion, and I’ve been the pool of my new clients both drop in quantity and lower in quantity.

Grace Marie, “The Death Of The Dabbler and The Erasure Of Sex Work From The Common Internet

The greatest thing about the ‘Adult Gigs’ section of Craigslist was the most obvious thing and the thing that most people missed – sex workers had achieved visibility on a website that was supposed to be for everything and everyone, not just for sex workers. …

Am I upset that the effects of FOSTA/SESTA are supposedly forcing some sex workers back on the stroll? Sure I am, but I’m most upset that we have been erased from the common internet and quarantined to sex worker-only sites.

Meghan Peterson, “Global Implications Of FOSTA

The anti-trafficking complex is a multibillion dollar industry that uses fundamentally imperialistic narratives to advance its cause. Milivojevic et al. have identified three pillars on which the anti-trafficking industrial complex is based: sex trafficking as a moral crusade against women’s sexuality, anti-migrant narratives that portray traffickers as non-white foreigners intent on harming the West through “invasive” immigration, and fear of organized sex trafficking and crime networks prompted by media. These narratives are additionally often racialized to present women who are trafficked as the migrant “Other” who are stripped of their agency and must be saved. This messaging relies on mythologies surrounding sex work to perpetuate an agenda that allows organizations to receive funding to combat the “evils” of sex trafficking….

The anti-trafficking industrial complex, which includes non-governmental organizations and legislative bodies, actively harms sex workers by promoting moralistic agendas, furthering carceral feminism, and diverting funding from workers who could benefit from social services rather than rescue efforts.

  • 60% of sex workers said “they’ve had to take on less safe clients, to make ends meet.”
  • “28% drop in screening. 92% of sex workers screened before FOSTA; that dropped to 63%.

Lura Chamberlain, FOSTA: A Hostile Law with a Human Cost, 87 Fordham L. Rev. 2171 (2019)

From the abstract:

This Note explores FOSTA’s effects on consensual sex workers in the United States from two angles. First, it analyzes how FOSTA’s chill on speech that advocates for sex workers’ health, safety, and right to work in their industry contributes to the law’s unconstitutional overbreadth. Second, it compares FOSTA’s practical effects that are in line with its stated goals with the harmful consequences the law has inflicted upon the sex work community and beyond. While this Note proposes amended language to improve FOSTA, it ultimately advocates for FOSTA’s repeal and suggests that if sex work were decriminalized and more pragmatic legislation were implemented to better inculpate traffickers, mitigate harm to trafficking survivors, and reduce future victimization, FOSTA’s stated goals could be realized.

Some selected excerpts:

the combination of overbroad and undefined language, strict penalties, and the rescission of third-party immunity may force UISPs to overmoderate user speech and proscribe protected material out of a fear that more selective UISP efforts will leave them vulnerable to prosecution. Further, FOSTA includes no safe harbor provision allowing UISPs to cure violations before liability sets in. UISPs, therefore, have three choices: check each piece of user content with human eyes prior to posting, which requires significant resources; enlist technological efforts to moderate content, like “machine-learning algorithms to filter and block anything that relates to sex, including activities that have nothing to do with sex trafficking”; or steer clear of all such topics entirely. The latter option is the least resource-intensive and the most likely to effectively preclude liability. For UISPs like, Craigslist, or any number of other websites that intentionally wish to host dialogue about sex work, this amounts to a categorical ban on such speech. This substantial proscription of protected speech is precisely the kind of chill the First Amendment precludes….

The government’s stated goal in implementing FOSTA is stopping online sex trafficking; FOSTA’s language suggests that it will impose liability on UISPs for much more activity than hosting sex trafficking advertisements….

FOSTA confines commercial sex to its most dangerous model….

FOSTA makes it more dangerous to be a UISP operator. It makes it more dangerous to be a sex worker. It may even make it more dangerous to be a trafficked person. But it does not, in any discernable way, increase the risk involved in being a sex trafficker.

Reuters: Report gives glimpse into murky world of U.S. prostitution in post-Backpage era

The Childsafe.AI study found that Backpage’s closure dealt a huge blow to the illicit world of online prostitution. Demand for prostitutes dropped 67 percent and search volume plunged 90 percent immediately after the site went offline, the report showed.

While many sex classified websites, mostly run by small-time operators, have tried to fill the gap left by Backpage’s demise, they each only draw about 5-8 percent of the unique visitors Backpage was earning at its height in 2016, Spectre said….

Spectre said the unreliability of classified ad websites has shown a shift toward hobby boards, where clients of prostitutes share graphic reviews of women, and sugar daddy pages attempt to emulate dating sites.

Anaheim Police Sergeant Juan Reveles of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force in Southern California said Backpage’s closure represented a double-edged sword for law enforcement. He said the scattershot market of shadowy web sites, often incorporated overseas, that replaced it are often harder to track.

“If we spend the time and effort to shut down one website, another one will pop up, and our resources are finite,” Reveles said.

Rosaline, FOSTA: you’re hurting the people you want to help

as a headstrong and already defiantly sexual 17 years old, I wouldn’t have listened to any do-gooder who tried to convince me to stop doing sex work because it was “wrong” or because I was being “abused”—even if I was. In that sense, a law like FOSTA was always doomed to fail. Teenagers may be impetuous and overconfident, but they will always find a way to get around the restrictions that adults seek to place on their sexuality….

There are ways of supporting young people who find themselves drawn towards sex work, but it is not through the kind of “help” that FOSTA provides, which has only resulted in censorship of the kind of information that those young people would find most helpful….

The kind of communities that we need are the kind of communities that we had before FOSTA came along, and FOSTA has destroyed them. If FOSTA was meant to save people like me from abuse, it has accomplished exactly the opposite of what it set out to do. But we haven’t yet seen the full extent of its failure. I fear for young people who find themselves as I was—curious, horny, rebellious, and broke—before FOSTA became law.

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