If You Think SESTA Will Help Victims Of Sex Trafficking, Read This Now

from the congress-is-about-to-make-a-huge-mistake dept

Earlier this week, I asked for anyone to explain how SESTA would actually stop any sex trafficking. No one had an answer. In that post, I detailed how it would actually make it harder to stop sex trafficking on various platforms. That’s not because I’m knowledgeable about sex trafficking — but I have spent 20 years documenting what happens when you make platforms liable for the actions of their users. And the result is never what the people pushing for such liability expect. It’s almost always incredibly counterproductive and dangerous.

But someone who does understand issues related to sex work and sex trafficking is Alana Massey, who has written a really fantastic piece detailing just how much harm SESTA will do to both sex workers and victims of sex trafficking. We’ve already discussed how FOSTA expands the scope of the law away from just “sex trafficking” to cover all sex work. And in bolting that together with SESTA, which punches a giant hole (surrounded by vague untested standards) into CDA 230, it also creates a ridiculous moderator’s dilemma for any website. Massey details what that will actually mean.

… the new legislation would threaten to criminalize peer-to-peer resource sharing that makes people in sex work safer and more connected. The very websites that these bills enable law enforcement to criminalize are precisely where I found the generous communities and actionable advice I needed to get out of and avoid exploitative sex work situations going forward. Though the bill is meant to target sites hosting sex work advertisements, it covers online forums where sex workers can tip each other off about dangerous clients, find emergency housing, get recommendations for service providers who are sex worker-friendly, and even enjoy an occasional meme. These are often on the same websites where advertisements are hosted.

Before you say, “Just get rid of the ads, then,” know that online ads themselves are one of the greatest tools for protecting yourself as a sex worker: They make it possible to screen clients, arrange safe indoor working conditions, and establish a communication record with clients that street-based work doesn’t provide.

Massey has a lot more in that article about how important CDA 230 is, but that’s the kind of stuff we cover all the time. What’s more interesting are the details about just how much damage SESTA will do directly to the people it purports to “help.” Oh, and she also debunks the moral panic leading up to the bill — specifically the claim that’s been repeated by multiple politicians and famous people pushing SESTA, that it’s as easy to engage in sex trafficking today as it is to order a pizza. She tested out that claim:

The premise is that right this second and in your own hometown, it is totally possible to go online and buy a child for sexual slavery — that it’s “as easy as ordering a pizza,” according to Schumer. I put this claim to the test in my local area and surrounding counties via a set of searches on Backpage that have likely landed me on an FBI watch list. Not one lousy “kid,” “minor,” “teen,” or “child” was available for purchase. Meanwhile, Domino’s is at my house within 21 minutes of me placing an order, come hell or high water. It is almost as if perpetrators of human trafficking aren’t really all that likely to advertise using photos of shackled minors.

And that leads into a much bigger point about just how damaging SESTA is going to be to those victims. I won’t quote the whole thing (go read it!), but she directly takes on the propaganda film, I Am Jane Doe, which has been used widely to support SESTA, to explain how SESTA is likely to create more Jane Does, not fewer.

The term “Jane Doe” has two main uses: The first is referring to a woman in court, often a victim of sexual violence, who is not being legally identified in the proceedings. The second is referring to the unidentified corpses of women murder victims. These bills seek to destroy the few lines of defense people in the sex trades have to protect themselves from becoming Jane Does. These online resources are how I found people who could help me transition out of sex work safely. They didn’t smuggle me out of a lurid foot fetish party in a suitcase under cover of night. They introduced me to editors and gave me some nice pointers on what I could write about when just starting out. My career trajectory was every bit as boring as most career trajectories are: often characterized by boredom and punctuated by both extreme satisfaction and intense desperation.

I don’t feel especially moved to talk about the exploitative scenarios I mentioned above just so I can be summarily dismissed as either a liar or too damaged to speak for myself. I have turned my traumas into practical guidance for new sex workers to help them avoid similar situations. The legislation these celebrities are championing may soon make this healing and sharing process a criminal act punishable by years in prison.

There’s so much more in the article worth reading — including a detailed debunking of what various celebrities have been saying in support of SESTA. It’s a must read for anyone who thinks SESTA is going to save lives. In all the writing I’ve done about SESTA, it’s been from the perspective of wonky knowledge of how “intermediary liability protection” laws work — which made it clear to me that laws like SESTA and FOSTA would backfire and be abused in various ways. Massey’s piece has opened my eyes to the very specific ways in which these laws will create real harm for the victims the bill is supposedly trying to help. Please read it.

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Comments on “If You Think SESTA Will Help Victims Of Sex Trafficking, Read This Now”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Isn’t it obvious? Shouldn’t we actually encourage platforms destined for sex buying and selling that leave trails and provide more security to the ones selling their works and the ones buying as well? You know, to avoid the sex workers from falling into predatory hands and customers from being leaded into a trap, robbed and even killed?

The problem with idiotic moral policing without fact based reasoning is that it ignores that there are other morals (ie: people that engage in sex trading and want their partners to be safe and work safely and don’t see any moral issue there). We should be legalizing this shit and giving the girls plenty of support just like your average businessman. This would help balancing supply and demand and make it much harder for traffickers to do their jobs because demand would be satisfied. Then the resources not spent battling something accepted and as ancient as humanity could be allocated to fight actual crime.

I won’t hold my breath though. We may need 1 or 2 more generations to get rid of the moralist idiocy in a level big enough to bring change. Just look at marijuana.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And now for something completely different..

Why are we persecuting those TRYING to make money usning what THEY HAVE??
Gov., is not based on Moral, but the group mentality that certain things are Right and Wrong. There are many nations/group/.. that Think Sex is a Good thing. They dont hide it in the back room, in the dark, under covers..

If you ask MOST of the men in the USA which would they rather on TV…Sex of Violence? At least 1/2 would say SEX.. the only reason we dont show it on TV, is those that would be Embarrassed.. To many MEN dont understand HOW Womens heads work..

legalize IT
regulate IT..
Control it..
Keep it clean..
Give them Control over Who is the Boss..
Give it Shots and medical, and Keep it clean.

How many crimes would be GONE, because a person could get a BIT of relaxation for a reasonable price?
Why deal with the headache of a DATE, MEAL, MOVIE, And trying to SUCK UP to someone just to get abit of relaxation..
WE COULD even have specialty sections, as SOME like it, abit different.. and THIS CAN BE CONTROLLED..and no one gets hurt..

How is this so bad??

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Gov., is not based on Moral, but the group mentality that certain things are Right and Wrong. “

Recent events have shown that many politicians lack any morals at all, just group mentality. This is an indication that they are a cult.

“To many MEN dont understand HOW Womens heads work..”

Apparently they do not care and that is why they are in need of said professional services. I imagine the price goes up when an NDA is involved.

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