John Oliver Explains How FOSTA (And Lots Of Other Policies To ‘Help’ Sex Work) Has Backfired Badly

from the john-oliver-the-resident-techdirt-tv-host dept

For not the first time, John Oliver is taking on topics we often cover at Techdirt, and doing a fantastic job of it. His latest show went deep on just how screwed up laws and law enforcement about sex work are, including a specific look at FOSTA.

The whole video is worth watching, and discusses how politicians, law enforcement, and sketchy “advocacy” groups repeatedly falsely try to conflate all sex work with sex trafficking. But, more importantly, it discusses how nearly all of the laws written about sex work and sex trafficking are done without talking to actual sex workers, and because of that it creates laws, such as FOSTA, that actually do a lot more harm than good, and often focus on punishing sex workers while pretending to “help” them.

The part on FOSTA doesn’t go that deep, but does make the key point (as we and others have been making for years) that (1) after insisting that FOSTA was “needed” the government basically never used it, and (2) that it actually has made it much, much, much more difficult for law enforcement to track down and arrest actual sex traffickers. In a clip I hadn’t seen before, Oliver shows a law enforcement official noting that Backpage used to work with law enforcement, but after it was shut down, overseas sites rushed in to fill the void, and none of them are willing to work with law enforcement at all.

Indeed, the episode provides even more support to leaked DOJ documents that showed that Backpage was actually a very helpful partner to law enforcement in helping to track down actual sex trafficking, but balked at… extending that to consensual sex work. In other words, the very point that Oliver tried to raise in this episode.

And, of course, as we see all of this, Congress still refuses to recognize how much harm that FOSTA has done and is, instead, still focused on passing a new law, the EARN IT Act, that is in many ways even worse than FOSTA.

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Comments on “John Oliver Explains How FOSTA (And Lots Of Other Policies To ‘Help’ Sex Work) Has Backfired Badly”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

With allies like that who needs enemies?

Right, now to try this again without the premature enter…

As the show makes pretty clear for all that numerous groups and people claim they just want to ‘help’ those in the sex trade the laws seem much more aimed at punishing them, from conflating any sex work with sex trafficking and wasting resources as a result, shutting down avenues that allow sex workers to operate safely, making carrying condoms a crime(not I’m not kidding) up to and including arresting sex workers for reporting being raped.

If the goal really is to help those that might not be in sex work by choice or who chose it but would rather do something else there are plenty of other options, but when it comes to what’s actually done ‘help’ is not the first word that should come to mind.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Arrest first, question later

Oliver makes great points. Arresting people isn’t in any way “helping” them.

All of these people (sex workers, clients, cops, etc.) have cellphones. It takes 3 digits to get emergency help. If they didn’t call the number, they’re not looking for help/rescue/save-a-whatever.

In a previous business I owned, we provided Backpage.COM server space. They were never the problem. Cross reference to CDA Sec 230 discussion thread.

The problem is wanna-be do-gooder people who KNOW BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE what’s good for other people. They march. They protest. They lobby. Idiots pass laws. Then they go after the people they didn’t like in the first place.

If your “ethical” “honest” “freedom” world is about arresting sex workers… Russia is that way —>


This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wyrm (profile) says:

(…) and often focus on punishing sex workers while pretending to “help” them.

To be honest, this is a very christian concept.
Hurting, killing and eventually torturing someone for all eternity all out of love is a foundation of the Bible. (Except for the parts where God is simply a jealous, vengeful and angry entity.)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:


Good old George carlin said it best;

When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day.
And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

…But He loves you.
He loves you, and He needs money!
He always needs money!
He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried.
I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things.
I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here.
War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades.
Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work.
If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say “this guy”, because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man.

Aaron Walkhouse says:

Re: To be honest, those are very antichristian concepts.

Hell, as described in the Bible, is somply an empty, desolate place where prisoners lay alone anf try to sleep away the centuries until Judgement.

Those not welcomed “into the joys of the Lord” go to the Lake of Fire, where they die.

No Eternal Torment, no demons playing with pitchforks and barbecues and sinners are pretty much alone through all of it. As the Bible reveals; the torment is tha they are alone from beginning to end, but for that short battle at the end when they try to escape and clain victory for their churches. ; ]

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


To be honest, this is a very christian concept.
Hurting, killing and eventually torturing someone for all eternity all out of love is a foundation of the Bible.

Oh Em Gee. A religious discussion on TD? I should walk away. And yet, if I do, I sanction these comments.

The BIBLE is not one book, and even if it was, it would be… um… just a BOOK. Instead it is a collection of writings of different people and different times and different beliefs.

The OLD TESTAMENT (the basis for a lot of teachings) has nothing to do with eternal torture, makes no mention of Jesus or Mohammed as a messiah, and has some eating tips (no shellfish, no pork, yada yada yada.)

The NEW TESTAMENT purports to upgrade Bible 1.0 to 2.0 with references to Jesus, caves, Mary, Joseph, eternal torture, etc. If that’s what you choose to follow, good for you, yada yada yada. Also pork is ok.

There are other books, “scriptures”, “writings”, yada yada yada yada. Again your right to red, obey, believe, and follow is YOUR right.

So hey. Don’t hate on THE BIBLE. It’s a book. So is Dune. So is Foundation. So is I Robot. Read what you like. Follow what you like. Believe what you will.

That is the freedom to choose we have … thus far… until it is taken away from us. Yada yada yada.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So hey. Don’t hate on THE BIBLE.

Welp, until the so-called followers of it continue to push their ‘it’s only a book’ narrative into everyone else’s lives, you can rest assured I’m going to feel the way I do about it.

The old testament god was nothing more than a prick, pitting those he purportedly loves against each other. If that’s supposed to be god-like, then you should really ask yourself why you bother calling that asshole ‘god’ in the first place.

The new testament god would be considered a pinko commie libtard under today’s circumstances, again, largely by the same people who supposedly subscribe to its teachings.

You’re judged by the company you keep. If you idolize a petty, murderous do-nothing like god, then you should expect ridicule from those of us who think your cognitive dissonance is worthy of scientific study.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

First, I mostly meant that as a joke aimed at ridiculing the fundamentalist christians who use their “holy book” as a moral guide. Or pretend to do so in order to justify whatever abhorrent moral principles they follow. They cherry-pick here and there to that effect since we can have “the book” say just about anything when you know what to quote.

Second, I don’t hate the book or the “god” it (inconsistently) describes. I have quite the interest in the Bible as a cultural and historical artifact. Just not as a religious guide. And I don’t think its god exists, so I don’t hate it either. I do mind the fanatics that do evil in its name. I have no problem with people who cherry-pick the “nice” quotes who happen to give actual good lessons. (Some of the ten commandments, turn the other cheek, etc.)

The problem I have is when bigots try to impose (as often as possible using the power of the law) their twisted moral values on other on the pretext that they are God’s commands. I don’t mind their beliefs, but the actions they take in the name of their ever-absent father figure.

So it’s not so much a religious subject, but a political one as far as I’m concerned. My joke above was just a sarcastic jab at them. 😀

I’m also pretty amused when their holier-than-thou attitude shows major hypocrisy because they denounce behaviors or beliefs that they are themselves guilty of. But that’s a whole other discussion.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Billions of dollars spent on buying more military toys to push us towards enough toys to destroy the planet 7 times over, but no one can find a couple million to run an actual peer reviewed research into this issue.

Instead we listen to groups who are obviously lying in an attempt to gain more money & power over peoples lives.

We really need to stop allowing people to turn their morals into law for everyone.

I mean I am looking forward to Roe v Wade getting gutted simply because we can then pass a law demanding everyone get vaccinated.

Can’t really complain about it as they have decided that the state can interfere in medical decisions to keep a vocal group of people, who don’t want to help take care of the children they force women to bear, get to decided what procedures are allowed or denied based on their moral judgement of other peoples lives. Can’t see how a religious exemption would work as the anti abortion laws demand women carry babies to term even if to do so would kill them… that seems a bit more of an imposition on people than I think Jebus will be me safe.

My mind… its wandering off on its own again.

I blame it on these moral crusaders not actually burning their own at the stake when they violate the moral rules they expect all of us to live under but not themselves. I mean if I was having an affair with an ISIS bride, cheating on my wife & 3 daughters, I would expect more would happen than being able to bow out gracefully.

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