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?

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Comments on “Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder; Sex Traffickers Realizing It's Made Their Job Easier”

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87 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

OK: I’ll bite.

We get annoyed at just this one today to bring awareness to it, so that it can be changed. Without public awareness and public shaming of public figures, we will not have change.

So why go after one when there are 500,000+ more laws?

Because each journey starts with a single step. Once THIS law is taken care of, there are 499,999+ laws, and we can work on the next item.

Your attitude only results in things getting continually worse. It is the attitude the Russian troll farms use to promote apathy.

Be part of the solution and pick a law you feel is unjust, and see it through to being removed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…your approach is noble but ultimately futile. You deal with symptoms not causes.

There are about 40,000 legislative bodies in the U.S. in addition to Congress and 50 state legislatures. They churn out thousands of new, dumb laws every year. You can’t possibly counter or even mildly mitigate that deluge with your approach

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

dumb laws are the well accepted standard for legislation in America — why get annoyed at just this one today?

I’m pretty sure most techdirt readers are both aware of and annoyed at a shitload of dumb laws today, not just this one. It just happens to be the dumb law that’s being discussed right here, right now — and it’s more than simply ‘dumb’: it’s effects aren’t just laughably ironic, they’re killing the very people legislators claim to be helping.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sure they see it as a win in the same way they see a win when they manage to institute abstinence only sex ed and teen pregnancy goes up. As they see it, these results mean that those women are actually facing consequences for their “sins”. And probably think this sort of thing will encourage more women to get out of sex work.

Anonymous Coward says:

so when is the repeal going to be filed, then? on top of that, when is the proposer and sponsors of the bill going to be publicly ridiculed, as they should, for being such numb-nuts? they were warned, but in true politician ‘i am in charge, not you’ fashion, all the warnings and warners were ignored!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

so when is the repeal going to be filed, then? on top of that, when is the proposer and sponsors of the bill going to be publicly ridiculed, as they should, for being such numb-nuts?

Where’s the "funny" button?

Legislators being forced to repeal or take responsibility for the bad legislation they’ve passed? You must be joking.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“so when is the repeal going to be filed, then?”
I would say, never.
Even though there’s a lot of evidence saying the law actually hurts people, politicians passed it assuming it helped people. They’re not going to go back on their campaign promises to get the law passed and then say they were wrong.
Like other posters have said, this is a morality law and politicians rarely, if ever, change their stance on morality.

aerinai (profile) says:

More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

Par for the course for this administration. They want deterrence of sex work through fear; the same way they are handling the immigration at the southern border. A few more dead women trying to eek out a living is an acceptable trade-off in the eyes of the ‘morality wing’ of the Republican party…

Kind of disgusting when you think about the value these politicians put on these women’s lives…

carlb (profile) says:

Re: More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

It’s only certain types of sex work that they’re trying to shut down. After all, what is Trump’s farce of a marriage to, what is it, Melania is #3 now, other than an economic exchange of her looks vs. his money. It’s still sex work, just with a sole client and no opportunity to walk away at the end of a one-hour “appointment” or “session”.

I don’t envy her position, nonetheless heterosexual marriage (as the biggest sex-for-money scam going) remains lawful in fifty states and ten provinces. Why?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

LOL @ both of you. I’m married because I wanted to be with my husband. To join households, as AC @ 14 May 2018 @ 7:25am so eloquently put it.

I’m not really gaining in terms of money; I make more than he does. This is common in many households so can we please stop denigrating marriage just because some people think of it as a career move?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

Senate numbers

House numbers

If you want to claim that in general one party is more in favor of putting forth these sorts of bills you’re welcome to present evidence for that, but as for this bill? Yeah, the support was pretty evenly split between the two parties(how much of that was true support vs ‘If I vote against this I’ll be slammed for supporting sex trafficking, it won’t affect me, so I’ll vote for it anyway’ is unknown however).

tom (profile) says:

Re: More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

According to wiki, the votes in Congress were 388-25 in the House and 97-2 in the Senate. About as bi-partisan a bill as you can get these days.

About what to expect from a country where two folks beating each other to a bloody pulp for money is considered acceptable sport(MMA) but if the same two engage in sex for money, horrible evil just happened.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

As far as party affiliation? Basically yes.

The nays were split 1/1 R/D.

The yays were split 49/46/2 R/D/I.

Not voting, 1 R.

If you’re not talking party affiliation, and are saying that it had overwhelming support in general in the senate, then yes, that is true, but it’s also not something I see anyone disagreeing with.

CrushU (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 More 'Acceptable' Collateral Damage

It means that there is little or no correlation between the party of the representative and whether he voted for the bill.

In other words, if you took one random Congressperson, the odds are more likely than not that they would support the bill.

Further, knowing how they voted on the bill does not allow you to guess their party affiliation with better than 50% accuracy. (Yes, technically there are more than two parties so it’d be lower than 50%, but that’s pretty minimal.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Linked article from Tulsa, Oklahoma states: "Police look for...

… *more ways* to investigate trafficking without Backpage”, and “Police said now that they can’t set up stings on Backpage, *they’ve been able to focus their manpower on investigating reports of prostitution at local massage parlors.**”

The Masnick headlines and links: “Yeah, about that: police are now realizing that it’s more difficult for them to find sex traffickers without Backpage.”

So while technically “Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder”, that just means they aren’t sitting at a computer munching doughnuts, but out engaged with community. — And that’s bad how?

ONE medium Midwestern proves all, when The Masnick needs it to!

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Police officers engaging with a community means nothing if the community cannot or does not want to help the police. The elimination of a useful tool in finding potential sex trafficking victims means those involved in that sordid business go further underground. The cops can also look into local massage parlors, but they are not the only source of sex trafficking victims. And if you think these issues are limited to midwestern towns, you might want to think about whether midwestern towns are the only towns with cops and sex trafficking issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

And, uh, er, NO, I can't "defend against" all your wild claims!

Too many of them is your tactic. So far just made up by people like you who opposed SESTA. You’re just claiming "right all along" way before any offical evidence is in!

The open advertising Masnick advocates inevitably leads to increase of prostitution. Sure, "libertarians" say "okay, it’s their choice". But NO society ever prospers with prostitution. All societies, even at present, forbid or suppress because bad and leads to worse.

Clearly Masnick favors pimps / procurers / prostitutes over civil society. Put with his support for copyright piracy and anti-police, shows he’s in The Thieve’s Guild.

ryuugami says:

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.

Obviously, they’re busy pimping.

The only rational reason to support SESTA/FOSTA is if you always wanted to be a pimp, but were too afraid of being caught. That obstacle has now been removed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Utter indifference to suffering vs. Outright engaging in it

The only rational reason to support SESTA/FOSTA is if you always wanted to be a pimp, but were too afraid of being caught. That obstacle has now been removed.

Oh not the only reason, there’s also wanting to use their ‘services’ but worrying about getting caught. By brushing the problem under the rug it’s much safer for pimps now, and therefore easier to make use of what they’re offering.

However, to be fair, this is probably putting way more thought into the matter than the overwhelming majority of those that voted for it and/or who supported it. Most of them probably didn’t get past ‘It will stop sex trafficking!’, or in the case of politicians ‘It will make it look like I give a damn about the people I couldn’t care less about!’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Utter indifference to suffering vs. Outright engaging in it

… those that voted for it…

In the traditional, pre-internet model:   Protection money goes to the vice squad. A cut goes to the DA’s office. Some of the DA’s take gets sliced off the top for the state AG’s office.

Local DAs —especially big-city DAs— and state AGs are intensely political creatures. They naturally donate to Congressional election campaigns, and other worthy causes.

Internet disintermediation messed with the middlemen.

ryuugami says:

Re: Re: Utter indifference to suffering vs. Outright engaging in it

However, to be fair, this is probably putting way more thought into the matter than the overwhelming majority of those that voted for it and/or who supported it. Most of them probably didn’t get past ‘It will stop sex trafficking!’, or in the case of politicians ‘It will make it look like I give a damn about the people I couldn’t care less about!’

As I said, pimping (or, as you point out, using their services) is the only rational reason. These are irrational.

What I’m doing is, I’m giving them a benefit of the doubt. Either they’re doing this to profit off of and/or exploit some of the most vulnerable members of society, or they’re so stupid they need to be institutionalized.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Utter indifference to suffering vs. Outright engaging in it

Not doing their job according to who? If their respective constituents claim to be in favor of a bill then voting for the bill will seem like getting the job done. If you mean that a senator is supposed to make carefully thought out decisions in favor of the constitution and all people in America, well then of course they aren’t going tying the job done.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Utter indifference to suffering vs. Outright engaging in it

How is ‘It’s good PR, and the negatives don’t impact me so why would I care?’ not rational? They get the gains, someone else has to deal with the losses.

It’s twisted and disgusting to be sure, but it is rational so long as you’re not trying to square it with actually caring about the victims held up as justification for the bill rather than just claiming to.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Mission accomplished

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. 

Well, duh! Mission accomplished. Appropriate sex worker sin penalties (death, disease, abuse) have been restored. Onward, onward, to punish other sins.

If it starts to look like FOSTA/SESTA might be repealed then the supporters will reappear like magic.

ECA (profile) says:

Even without Sesta/fosta..

Its for the Children is correct..

JUST the creation of this LAW, and the interview is going to FORCE THESE PEOPLE UNDERGROUND..

You have taken the RABBIT out of the HOLE and explained to him HOW we hunt rabbits, THEN RELEASED HIM..
SOON, every rabbit will know HOW you hunt them..

You have made a pamphlet, a book, a FLAG to wave over everything ABOUT THIS… And those rabbits are going to DIG DEEPER, LEARN WHEN HUNTING SEASON IS…then HIDE someplace else..

YOU have focused on 1 avenue of the SOURCE(the internet) and NOT the others..
The internet is very Deep, and many things can be hidden, and these person WERE IDIOTS TO POST TO A PUBLIC LISTING… THEY MADE A MISTAKE, and you are thinking a Bill like this is going to solve WHAT??
YOU WONT see this in public now..
You will go DEEPER into the net to find it..IT WILL STILL BE THERE..eating your carrots..

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oh look, everything people warned would happen happened.
Of course there isn’t a long history of laws passed to fix X that cause many more problems than they end up causing… *cough Patriot Act*.

People demand the government fix things… ignoring that they only fix things that somehow benefit them.
They want to tell us that sexual harassment is a horrible thing, when their own policies punish those who report & they managed to create a slush fund of tax dollars to quietly pay settlements when their members harassed others.

The “evidence” claims that there are 0 – 52 billion trafficked children being pimped out every day.
The “evidence” claims that sex workers are only doing it because they are forced (usually while they are trying to cover sex workers mouths to keep them from saying that isn’t true).
The “evidence” supports the position that they have no clue what actually is happening & that believing “experts”, who make more money the larger the problem appears, want to make themselves unemployed.

We need to stop allowing those moral minded people from hijacking issues to impose their morals on everyone else.

Sex between consenting adults (paid or not) should be decriminalized.
Rules killing off websites that help sex workers run their business, should be stricken.

We need to stop making larger haystacks that allow the ‘bad guys’ much more cover.
Stop forcing all sex workers into the shadows so that police have to check each & every shadow to see if it is someone forced into it.

The hysteria does not live upto the hype.
There are a few cases of bad actors doing this, but everyone wants to shift the blame as widely as possible to ignore their own roles in what happened.

If client could login to hooker.com & get a professional sex worker without having to play games… wouldn’t that make ads on BP not really needed for pros? So pimps trying to sell kids would stick out much more?

Decriminalize, demarginalize sex workers. Try listening to them as actual people who know how the game works & their wisdom of how to find & stop the bad guys.

superkuh says:

Sex work is not sex trafficking.

Techdirt should not adopt the twisted language of the police and call all sex work “sex trafficking”. That was what allowed this travesty of a law to be passed in the first place.

I get that by adopting the premises of the doublespeak you can highlight the failure of the bill with irony, but in doing so you’re only reinforcing the core concept of the bill: that sex work of all kinds is sex trafficking. That is dangerous in and of itself.

superkuh says:

Re: Re: You don't say

Sure. In this article title it’s calling all pimps that are requesting sex workers to work for them sex traffickers. This aligns with the twisted language which denies individual autonomy and volition to the sex workers, making any such arrangment automatically a coercive use of force even if no such use of force exists.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You don't say

“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 implications there are pretty clear to me, pimps are taking advantage of the situation with regards to people who wouldn’t have gotten involved with them otherwise, which would seem to fall just fine into the ‘coercive use of force’ category. The rest of the time the quote is talking about sex workers in general.

Outside of that quote by someone else, are there any portions of the article that you can find that conflate the two, and that aren’t simply using the term ‘sex trafficking’ because that’s the ones who passed the bill used to justify it?

Anon says:

Was never about sex trafficking

This law was always about making prostitution harder. Trafficking arguments were cynically concocted made to garner support because far too many thinking people don’t feel consensual prostitution should be illegal. A very passionate minority disagree and this is their work.

I believe sex traffickers were not generally benefiting from Backpage etc. and only the really stupid or reckless ones would do something that public. Prostitutes on the other hand definitely took a big hit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Silly people. Instead of spending 5 min reading my comment take the same 5 min. to google Earth’s carrying capacity. Then google U.N. 2015 15 year goals, and then just for the heck of it try to find a single non-biased publication that documents your countries efforts to have a sustainable plan by 2030. Politicians may be this or that, but they are mostly like everyone else. Without any global pandemics in modern times we are in a serious predicament. Oh maybe google man made flu at Ft. Meade as well. Those making these choices are the ones who also must live with the burden of figuring out how to get rid of a butt load of ppl, and do so without causing public panic. The last thing they need is you knowing you are a number. Your not a person, or soul. Your number is also a problem. Ever wonder why on craigslist a hetrosexual targeted ad has a life span of approx 10 min yet the homosexual ads not only remain, but they seem to be allowed to contain the most explicit of subject matter. The war on drugs was not a failure, it was a raging success, those who founded it gained not only control of enough of the global wealth they also were able to shift the collective driving force of humanity to a more evil disposition than was around back in the days when human interaction was still considered hip. Individually most people are not evil, but when those people are subjected to idea’s based on how much money the idea is worth and sometimes also bound to secrecy we wind up with a problem like this one. There is not proof we will cease to continue as a species if we hit that population. We are being led here by reports from lobbyist groups who remember up to a few short years ago stauchly denied any climate change was even happening. They have known and been working on this since 1970! You might be wondering who I am and how I know so much. I am just a domestic staff member for one of those politicians. A real God fearing human who also doesnt want to wind up like Snowden. Nothing illegal about googling a few statistical records and anyone can view the UN reports. Its that no one does those things I find just whacked. Your all being manipulated and it is not whether you want to give up your conforts to stand up it is about giving up your human being, so their can be a global one world order. Yeah it sure does sound radical, and nutty, so lets give up all our rights to bear arm while we give up our rights to free speech because at the end of the day no one wants to sound crazy, and without the possibility to engage in intimate bonding with at one the one person who can keep us strong and gives us renewed hope in life, we are just that much weaker to defend against the Borg or whatever is ruling our pubic servants attitudes. Its not the cops or the rich its the leaders of the collective industries. Remember that. If you want to shut it down we only need to get new leaders on quite a few industries but that is a lot less than they want you to know to even think about. Now quick erase this before I am either arrested for child porn – one of the ways they ruin credibility is to label you with that one. If God came here today and offered answers to everything and brought about peace, the establishment would have no problem turning God into a child molesting nut job on a street corner without an audience, nor even a social media account as they cant have them. Yeah they do have that type of control in fact way back in the 90’s a fedral bill was put into place that no one understood at all back then, except the lobbyists that pushed it. It digitalized all the media the public was shown at one time in 2012. That thing means that all that you see and hear is controlled by something you cannot know of. Nothing is private, your searches are collected, and whether or not you ideas are allowed to be heard is not something everyone has the right to. Freedom of speech means very little when the DNS place your words in a file that does not allow that IP address into searches. Its that time count your counting stones, the advances in science have been truly epic we made a living thing from stem cells yet it is our creating. We are doing these things yet we cannot be truthful with one fact no one wants anyone to know about: 80% of earth living population somehow must go away in 10 years. Thats the figure you may never see. Also just cuz I know most of you will laugh this off I only have one thing to say which is, if you think to recall this in some future time dont worry about recalling it all, just try to imagine hearing me say, "I told you so." One more thing Gen X is called that because X is the designation for prototype. None of this is secret, its just it all is part of code word projects that are never discussed openly, like a lot of things are. Why Google doest really like anyone knowing how to use its Dorks is that the last dam thing anyone should see is unbiased information that can be used by an idividual to form an opinion, doing so would constitute free will and we cannot have that. Your opinions must be carefully created for you as are your view of the world. Ya know maybe i am wrong to tell this stuff, maybe I should just chose the side that is strongest and e glad Im not part of the masses. I seriously do not see anything change about it. I do not think one of you would risk much. Survival of the strongest which certainly is not this disaster. Go reptilian agenda, or whatever they are.

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