Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder; Sex Traffickers Realizing It's Made Their Job Easier
from the who-could-have-predicted dept
For many months in the discussion over FOSTA/SESTA, some of us tried to explain how problematic the bills were. Much of the focus of those discussions were about the negative impact it would have on free speech on the internet, as the way the bill was drafted would encourage greater censorship and more speech-chilling lawsuits. But as we heard from more and more people, we also realized just how incredibly damaging the bill was going to be to those it was ostensibly designed to protect. Beyond the fact that it was passed based on completely fictional claims about the size of the problem, those who actually were victims of sex trafficking began explaining — in fairly stark terms — how SESTA/FOSTA would put them in greater danger and almost certainly lead to deaths.
While supporters of the bill seem to insist that because the bill puts legal liability on platforms that are used for sex trafficking that it will magically make sex trafficking disappear, the reality is more complex. While we can argue about Backpage’s complicity in what happened on its platform, for years it was used as a tool to protect sex workers, giving them more control over their lives and who they worked with. As we’ve pointed in the past, a recent study found that Craigslist, back when it had its “erotic services” section, appeared to decrease female homicide rates by an astounding 17.4%. Backpage picked up the slack when Craigslist was bullied into closing that section, but now it’s gone too.
And stories are already coming in about the damage done. A recent episode of the Reply All podcast all about SESTA/FOSTA had some scary stats at the end, noting that there are already many stories of sex workers who have gone missing or been killed since the bill became law.
Motherboard has a story with much more details, noting that the passing of SESTA/FOSTA has emboldened pimps to take advantage of more victims of sex trafficking. As many sex workers had explained, Backpage actually allowed them to have more control themselves, and helped them get away from pimps. But without Backpage?
?Pimps seem to be coming out of the woodwork since this all happened,? Laura LeMoon, a sex trafficking survivor, writer, and co-founder and director of harm reduction nonprofit Safe Night Access Project Seattle, told me in an email. ?They?re taking advantage of the situation sex workers are in. This is why I say FOSTA/SESTA have actually increased trafficking. I?ve had pimps contacting me. They?re leeches. They make money off of [sex workers?] misfortune.?
The Verge also has an excellent deep dive into how SESTA/FOSTA has put more women’s lives at risk.
What about the claims that SESTA/FOSTA would help law enforcement (many of whom pushed for the law)? Yeah, about that: police are now realizing that it’s more difficult for them to find sex traffickers without Backpage. I mean, it’s not like people were explaining this a decade ago.
Meanwhile, given how many SETSA/FOSTA supporters insisted that the bill was necessary to prevent the sex trafficking scourge, you’d think that sex trafficking prosecutions and arrests would show an upswing, right? Instead, we see things like how a special court in Delaware set up specifically to focus on dealing with sex trafficking cases is shutting down due to the lack of actual sex trafficking victims. The reason the court was shut down according to the judge who shut it down?
… there was “little evidence to suggest the defendants of this court are the subjects” of sex-trafficking enterprises.
So, I’m still wondering why all of the supporters of SESTA/FOSTA seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth in the last couple months as all of this has happened. Can one of them step forward and actually defend what they’ve done as the evidence is showing they’re literally getting people killed and making it more difficult to stop sex trafficking?