Internet Censorship and FOSTA/SESTA

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Today we take a real step backward, and down a path we will regret.

 

                                                                                       -Sen Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 21 2018

 

 

internet

image source: stopsesta.org

Recently the U.S Government House of Representatives as well as the U.S Senate passed a set of laws known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act [FOSTA] and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act [SESTA]

 

 It needs only the president's approval to be written into law.

 

Many hail this set of laws as a step forwards towards helping victims of sex trafficking. Ads with celebrity endorsment for these laws were made and many of them featured children, focusing on the sex crimes on the innocent as a way to get this law passed. 

 victims

image source: Amy Scheumer from PSA on youtube.com

Unfortunately this set of laws does much more harm to victims of sex trafficking as well as legal consenting sex workers overall than it does to help anyone.

 

Section 230

image source: user sammishreachers pixabay.com

The alleged need for these bills arose from a small adjustment to a set of laws called The Communications Decency Act, which states that websites are not liable for what users post on their platforms. This law has made it so that sites cannot be sued for what users decide to put on their websites, and has greatly shaped the modern internet.

A repeal or change of this adjustment in law will change the face of the internet as we know it. This is because the amount of money required to police a site for every single thing users post would be very expensive and not feasible.

Section 230 in essence protects sites from being liable for what users may post. SESTA AND FOSTA seek to change this and make sites liable for posts, specifically pertaining to the acts of prostitution and sexual trafficking. 

image source: user CQF-avocat pixabay.com

But the dialogue of these laws is so vague it could easily be expanded to include much more. As a pre emptive measure, many sites are already closing their doors for fear of being unable to regulate their massive amounts of traffic, and fear of lawsuits filed against them. 

Its is because of Section 230 that we have much of the freedom of speech on the current internet. It's why we can post reviews for products and make youtube videos and post stuff about our lives on Facebook. Wikipedia would not exist if this law did not exist. 

video source: youtube.com user: Ben Swann

 

The Laws 

 Both SESTA and FOSTA are very similar laws that were merged together in order to get them to pass. They were shoved through the House and Senate very quickly and were sold on the premise of helping sex workers who are being trafficked against their will.

The creation of these bills began when BackPages.com had a case against them back in 2016. The executives of Backpages, an online classifieds website, were arrested on charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Prosecutors claimed that the site was created for illegal sex activities, but the case was dismissed by the court citing the alleged Section 230 law. Due to this, SESTA and FOSTA were born.

image source: user quimono pixabay.com

Fosta/SESTA claim to create accountability for sites by amending Section 230 to note that sites can be prosecuted if they "engage in the promotion or faciliation of prostitution" or "facilitating traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims" The bill seems to place consentual legal sex workers in a pile with those who are trafficking illegally, which is something that will make both less safe overall.

The laws are also retroactive, so if a site or a person solicited sex in their past they are still liable. This creates a slippery slope and forces sites to censor their users to get by.

The Effect on The Internet So Far

video source: youtube.com user: mundanematt

 

Although these laws have not been passed into law as of yet, the effects online are already being felt, especially for the adult community:

Backpages.com is no longer and has shut down They are also in the midst of yet another court case concerning victims of sex trafficking.

Craigslist has also ditched their classifieds personals area.

Twitter has reacted by beginning to ban accounts outright based on content alone and not violation of TOS

Instagram is also closing accounts based on content.

Reddit has already banned any subreddits having to do with escorts, prositiution, hookers, or sugar daddy.

Google is sending out bots to search key phrases and remove sites that way.

Wordpress is also pulling many websites.

Google Drive is deleteing all instances of pornography and locking accounts.

Pounced.org a furry site featured in the above video shut down because they do not feel they have the means to police their site properly. 

censorship

image source: pounced.org wikipedia.com

The reaction seems to mostly be catastrophic as most sites feel that there is no way for them to regulate their sites enough to satisfy these laws, and so they plan to simply close down or shut out sex work altogether.

Which, of course, includes all of us, escorts, cam models, pornstars alike.

FetLife is currently at a loss for what to do and release statements expressing their frustration on how to move forward in light of these new laws.

source: fetlife.com

 

 Overall, it seems that these sets of laws do little for sex trafficking victims and more for overall censorship of the internet at large.

 

The Effects on Sex Workers

image source: user Vitamin pixabay.com

The loss of places like BackPages has actually made it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs catching the individuals trafficking people for sex online. After all, now there is nowhere to advertise so it's back to the streets! All these laws seem to do is make conditions worse for sex workers rather than help them.

This is also an issue for sex workers who have liberated themselves using the internet to find their own clients as opposed to being forced to do all their business on the streets, which is a much less safe environment. Internet communities also provide another layer of safety for at risk sex workers as it gives them a place to communicate with each other about bad clients or areas, and help each other get out of bad situations. With the new need to heavily police and therefore censor even discussions about sex work, the whole environment becomes even more unsafe. 

courts

image source: user Alexas_Fotos pixabay.com

 The effects on legal sex workers like cam models and pornstars is being felt as well, with social media sites many of us rely on to promote our work making it harder for us to do so due to these laws. The entire effects is a stifling of the adult industry and general censorship of people internet wide. If you are in the US and feel that this set of laws will do more harm than good, then please sign the peition to stop this from becoming a law here:

 https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/repealstop-fosta-now

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Thank you for reading this artcile on FOSTA and SESTA. As a cam model I am greatly affected by this peice of law and hope that information with help to remove the confusion over this law and how it doesn't help anyone. 

Get more information on FOSTA and SESTA here:

https://mises.org/wire/problem-fosta

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/02/house-vote-fosta-win-censorship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Enabling_Sex_Traffickers_Act

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/fosta-sesta-anti-sex-trafficking-bill

 

 



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