eBay's FOSTA-Inspired Ban On 'Adult Content' Is Erasing LGBTQ History
from the it's-not-just-onlyfans dept
There was plenty of attention paid OnlyFans decision recently to ban “sexually explicit” content — a policy the company suspended following an outcry. However, more and more people are noticing that the same kind of thing is happening across the internet due to FOSTA.
The New Yorker has a very interesting article describing how eBay recently banned almost all adult content on its website, and one of the consequences is that important historical LGBTQ content is disappearing. Yet again, this appears to be one of the very much intended consequences of FOSTA. You may recall that one of the major backers of FOSTA were pretty explicit that they saw it as part of their plan to stop all pornography from existing.
And, it’s working:
Recently, eBay has shifted company policy in ways that will make further acquisitions of erotica difficult. In May, the platform banned the sale of ?sexually oriented materials??including magazines, movies, and video games?and closed its ?Adults Only? category to new listings in the United States. There are a few explicit exemptions, including Playboy; Penthouse; the gay art zine Butt; the satirical, women-run erotica magazine On Our Backs; and something called Fantastic Men, which appears to be a misspelling of the PG-rated men?s style magazine Fantastic Man. ?Nude art listings that do not contain sexually suggestive poses or sexual acts are allowed,? the policy states. Materials falling afoul of such distinctions?which could presumably include anything from reproductions of Michelangelo?s horned-up ?The Expulsion from Paradise? to back copies of Black Inches?are, apparently, now beyond the pale.
The ban appears to be related to the House?s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Senate?s Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, known together as FOSTA–SESTA, an effort by victim?s-rights advocates and right-wing activists to crack down on sex work. One feature of the legislative package was to make Web sites liable for hosted content that might ?promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.? After Donald Trump signed FOSTA–SESTA into law, in 2018, Craigslist shut down its personals listings, Tumblr banned sexual content, Facebook prohibited the formation of groups organized around sexual encounters, and Instagram ramped up its policing of user content, especially that which includes any hint of human nudity. Also of possible relevance: eBay recently began using the Dutch fintech company Adyen for electronic payment services. Like many payment-processing companies, Adyen refuses to participate in the sale of adult materials. Similar concerns by payout providers were reportedly at the center of the recent decision by OnlyFans, the content subscription platform, to ban sexual content?a move they reversed after considerable outcry led by the sex workers who, in large part, helped the company build a valuation of some one billion dollars. In a written statement to me about the change in policy at eBay, a spokesperson said, ?eBay is committed to maintaining a safe, trusted and inclusive marketplace for our community of buyers and sellers and we are continually reevaluating product categories allowed on the platform.?
Congrats to Amy Schumer, Tony Shalhoub, Seth Meyers and Josh Charles for the success in your “advocacy” for FOSTA.
As the New Yorker notes, the impact here is pretty significant. Researchers, archivists, historians, and museums are now all missing out.
Drew Sawyer, a curator at the Brooklyn Museum, said that he has ?often turned to eBay for printed matter, magazines, zines, and photographical reproductions? when preparing exhibitions. ?Even if?if?they?re archived in libraries, they?re often easier to buy on eBay from logistical and registrarial perspectives. And also cost.? For an upcoming retrospective, Sawyer won a copy of the photographer Jimmy DeSana?s self-published 1979 monograph, ?Submission: Selected Photographs.? It?s one of only a hundred or so copies ever made, and a crucial document of a moment when queer sexuality and conceptual art intermingled. ?DeSana is an artist whose work would fall under this new policy,? Sawyer said.
And it’s especially important regarding important LGBTQ historical materials, since institutions, like libraries, didn’t much care about that content in the past, meaning they don’t have much of it.
In researching his book ?Bound Together: Leather, Sex, Archives, and Contemporary Art,? Andy Campbell, an associate professor of critical studies at the Roski School of Art and Design, used both eBay and the Johnson/Carter Library, in addition to other archives around the country. ?Bound Together? argues that queer archives are particularly precarious, as they often lack institutional support structures and their content is at odds with community guidelines. Yet, by making queer culture accessible, they also increase the likelihood of that more positive erasure: assimilation. The same kind of harness that once strained across a hairy chest in Tony DeBlase?s DungeonMaster magazine ends up, some four decades later, on Taylor Swift in a paparazzi shot or Timoth?e Chalamet on the red carpet. Campbell can still trace those historical lines of sex, style, and commerce without eBay, but it?s more difficult. ?When looking at an issue of the leather magazine Drummer, I think about all the coordinated efforts of so many writers, artists, readers, and editors to represent, month after month, their experiences in this community,? he told me, over e-mail. ?With DungeonMaster, which was a near-solo labor of love for DeBlase, I think about the radical abilities of one extremely-driven person to educate and titillate his community. That either exists is a miracle.? When it comes to finding them, ?It?s a bummer that eBay won?t be that platform any longer.?
There’s a lot more in that New Yorker piece, but the summary is that this important bit of history is being stamped out thanks to a bunch of prudes and “well meaning” supporters of FOSTA who were sold a bill of goods that Section 230 was evil.