Over the past several months I have seen very little published or discussed about SESTA ( Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) or the House counterpart legislation – FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act). These are two pending Congressional bills that will dramatically alter not only the escort industry but also, quite possibly, the entire Internet.
The aim of each of these proposed bills is to fundamentally change the Communications Decency Act of 1934 and more specifically section 230 of that act. Currently, Section 230 generally immunizes Internet intermediaries from legal liability for hosting user-generated content. Many websites or services that we rely on host third-party content in some way—social media sites, photo and video-sharing apps, newspaper comment sections, and even community mailing lists.
Congress, both the Senate and House of Representatives, want to strip section 230 of those protections to make it easier to prosecute websites that advertise the services of escorts. Think of this as the “Backpage Bill.” However, instead of just prosecuting Backpage and its owners, now local and federal law enforcement will be able to prosecute any website that promotes escorting and/or prostitution.
Apparently, the government decided it is impossible to stop escorting and prostitution on a case by case basis, so the much easier alternative is to go after the websites that promote these services.
This has been a fight that has been going on for years. Here are some websites over the past 8 years that have been prosecuted or investigated for escort related activities or ads;
- 2010 – Craigslist.com – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/business/16craigslist.html
- 2011 – Escorts.com – https://domaininvesting.com/escorts-com-saga-over-for-national-a1-advertising/
- 2014 – Redbook.com – https://www.wired.com/2015/02/redbook/
- 2015 – RentBoy.com – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/nyregion/rentboy-jeffrey-hurant-sentence-sex-work.html
- 2016 – TheReviewBoard.com – https://projects.seattletimes.com/2017/eastside-prostitution-bust/
- 2016 – Backpage.com – http://reason.com/blog/2017/08/31/california-drops-kamala-harris-pimping
- 2017 – Eros.com – http://reason.com/blog/2017/11/13/eroscom-still-lives-but-homeland-securit
I might be missing a few but just from that list you can see the pattern that is emerging. They obviously believe that if escorts can’t advertise on the Internet – sexual services will just disappear.
However, law enforcement taking down a handful of escort website isn’t enough for US Senators or Congressman. They want to be able to tell Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to block all prostitution related accounts, profiles and ads. Thus, the need to fundamentally change CDA Section 230 that provides them immunity from what is posted on their social media sites.
For awhile the large Internet companies were strenuously opposed to SESTA and FOSTA, however, they have recently been softening to the idea of legislation that will only target sex workers (or so they think).
Luckily, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is still vehemently opposed to both bills. They have built a website so anyone can send their objections to their Congressional representatives to stop SESTA and FOSTA.
If you are a sex worker (escort, porn performer, cam performer, dancer – ie., anyone that makes their income off of sex) or you love a sex worker or just support what they do I urge you to use EFF’s website and send a message to your Congressional representative and join in the fight to Stop SESTA and FOSTA !