Six Months Later, People Are Finally Realizing That FOSTA Actually Is Putting Lives At Risk

from the we-kinda-warned-you dept

Before FOSTA became law, plenty of experts in the space tried to warn everyone that a bill that was frequently promoted as being necessary to help "save the lives" of vulnerable women involved in sex trafficking, would actually put more lives at risk. And we've already had some evidence to support that this prediction was entirely accurate. Various law enforcement officials have been complaining that it's now more difficult to catch sex traffickers.

And, now the Associated Press has a big article looking at the impact of FOSTA and it's not pretty. The closing down of various online forums for sex workers has driven more sex workers into the street, where their lives are at significantly higher risk:

Law enforcement in San Antonio arrested 296 people for prostitution between March 21, when the Sex Trafficking Act passed Congress, and Aug. 14, according to a public records request — a 58 percent increase from the same span the year before, when police made 187 arrests.

Phoenix police said they experienced a surge in street-prostitution arrests in 2018 but did not provide figures. In Houston, levels have remained constant, but more 14- to 17-year-olds have been working outdoors since May, said James Dale, a police captain.

Police in Sacramento, California, noted three street-prostitution arrests between March 21, 2017, and mid-August of that year. During the same period in 2018, they recorded 15.

The stories from women who have shifted from using the internet to the streets are pretty harrowing:

Kara Alexander, who lives in Florida, advertised her services on Backpage, Craigslist and other sites before April. When media companies closed down sections hosting adult services ads, she said, she started working on the streets.

In May, she said, a client raped her and poured alcohol in her body in an attempt to destroy evidence. Alexander, 29, said she had faced violence while working online, but never on this scale.

“It’s a different kind of danger,” she said.

A sex worker who goes by Quinn and didn’t want her real name used because she feared arrest and other repercussions said that in the age of the trafficking act, she hasn’t been able to rack up enough jobs. Near the end of April, she started selling herself outdoors in Boston for the first time since she was a teenager, she said.

“There’s no backup plan for people like us,” said Quinn, who said she was raped and beaten in August but could not afford treatment.

There are more stories and information in the full AP piece.

And, again, none of this should be a surprise. Before FOSTA became law, we (and many others) pointed to a recent study that showed how adult ads on Craigslist "reduced the female homicide rate by 17.4%" when it was available. And, to put some context on that number, that's the overall female homicide rate, not just "the female homicide rate of sex workers." Forcing more women into the street is, literally, leading to people dying.

And it is infuriating that this was done by Representatives like Ann Wagner and Mimi Walters who insisted they were doing it to save women's lives, when the reality is that they have only served to put more women in potentially mortal danger.

The AP article also highlights another point that we had mentioned previously: FOSTA is enabling much more trafficking by empowering pimps, while online sites allowed sex workers to avoid needing to use pimps:

Alexander said a friend of hers was attacked by pimps who were incensed she was working without them, and Quinn said pimps have become much more aggressive now that they see a market.

It would be nice if some reporters actually ask Representatives like Ann Wagner and Mimi Walters, or Senators like Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal how they feel about the fact that the bad law that they pushed for, claiming it was necessary to save young women, has now created a situation where those women are placed in significantly more danger? In the business world, if you push for a proposal, once it's implemented, people check to see whether what you claimed would happen would -- and if it didn't, you're often asked to explain why not. It's incredible that Congress can pass a law insisting it will do one thing, and when it does the exact opposite, no one seems to care.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:31am

    'I'm a politician, we're NEVER wrong.'

    It would be nice if some reporters actually ask Representatives like Ann Wagner and Mimi Walters, or Senators like Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal how they feel about the fact that the bad law that they pushed for, claiming it was necessary to save young women, has now created a situation where those women are placed in significantly more danger?

    I suspect the response, should they not ignore the question entirely, would be varying shades of sickening, disgusting, and/or dishonest, as to answer honestly would be to admit that they completely screwed up and/or ignored the warnings that people were giving regarding the law, including the very real, lethal repercussions it would have.

    'Those are outliers/anomalies.'

    'While it's unfortunate that a handful of people are negatively impacted, the overall result has more than outweighed it.'

    'If the job is so dangerous they can always find another, safer job. They chose the job knowing the risks, so ultimately it's their own fault.'

    And so on and so forth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 5 Oct 2018 @ 7:45am

      Re: 'I'm a politician, we're NEVER wrong.'

      I think the more honest response (and also one they might actually give, in some form) would be along the lines of "Yeah, the women who are already in the profession and aren't getting out are in more danger, but all the women who never get dragged into the profession in the first place (because the law made dragging women into it more dangerous) have been saved!". With the implication that the benefit of the latter far outweighs the detriment of the former.

      It's still specious, of course, especially when put up against real-world statistics about both halves of that divide - but it's at least internally consistent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:49am

    Creative Incredulity

    What do you mean unintended consequences?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:24am

    "It's incredible that Congress can pass a law insisting it will do one thing, and when it does the exact opposite, no one seems to care. "
    No, it's not. Throw in the word "homeless", and the exact same situation will result: more deaths.

    People don't give a damn about hookers and homeless. As far as they're concerned, they're a blight on "society".

    Intelligent species my ass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    vipul patil, 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:42am

    Creative Incredulity

    What do you mean unintended consequences?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:44am

    Legislation should be treated similarly to scientific experiments.

    First, morality is irrelevant. Pick a goal (e.g., protect sex works from violence) and then do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Too many elected officials see the world through reward and punishment. Is a school underperforming? Cut it's funding as punishment! That will help them do better! Wrong.

    Second, it would be nice if potential laws could be adopted in "test" regions to see how well they work before inflicting the rest of country with them. We sort of have this in the case of state laws. A good example is how RomneyCare in MA became the basis for the Affordable Care Act. It doesn't matter if you think the ACA is good, bad, or somewhere in-between; at least they tried it out first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      Science has not morals? .. care to expound upon this claim?

      School funding has been slashed over the past several decades in their ill fated attempt at destroying public education as they want to replace it with privatized schools that give them profits. They claim private business can operate more efficiently .. but at what - stealing from the public?

      Test a law before making it ubiquitous? Why not have a real discussion with all those impacted first .. oh yeah, they are not interested in what is wrong with their proposals all they are interested in is their bottom line.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Hero, 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:12am

        Re: Re:

        > Science has not morals? .. care to expound upon this claim?

        I will expound. People have morals; science does not.

        The scientific method can be whittled down to "construct a hypothesis" then "test hypothesis with experiment".

        I don't think I did a good job explaining what I meant in my original post, but the gist is that we might consider trying new laws on a smaller region to observe their impact before implementing the law state-wide, or nation-wide.

        So, set a goal (I want to end poverty), apply a law (dropping money out of helicopters) to a region to see how well it works in reaching the goal. If it works, we can expand the law. If it doesn't work, then we can go back to the drawing board and try something different.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're describing the kind of careful, pragmatic conservatism I subscribe to. And you're right, Anonymous Hero. People likely to be impacted by the law might not know what is likely to happen when it's implemented, though I do agree with the AC that they ought to be involved in the crafting thereof.

          The law should also be amended or even completely repealed if it's proven not to work, or to be downright detrimental. It annoys me no end that people often repeatedly implement laws and policies whether they work or not on principle alone.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            bob, 4 Oct 2018 @ 8:47am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            As stated in other parts of the comments. Who said this law didn't work? It's probably doing exactly what certain politicians wanted, it just isn't fulfilling the public statement given for why we need the law.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 5 Oct 2018 @ 2:37am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              [Sad but True]

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Cynyr (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I think the goal of the law should be written in the top of the law. the test to determine if the goal is being met should also need to be included at the top of the law. Every X years the test called out should be performed, and if it doesn't pass, then the "unwind" clause should automatically be followed.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 5:05pm

      Re:

      This is why the federal government should be out of most of the crap it's in and should have never been in the first place. Most everything should be in the state's power.

      Good Idea's get adopted by the other states, and bad ideas are left to hopefully die, though that never seems to happen. It also allows people who hate what some city or state is doing and in effect can FLEE from it to another town or state. Something you can't do when it's by the Federal Government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:53am

    'People Are Finally Realizing That FOSTA Actually Is Putting Lives At Risk'

    except the fucking idiots that brought this into law! they wont ever see anything that doesn't give them the chance to 'grandstand' or give them 'campaign contributions'! what the effects are to everyone else isn't even thought about by them!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 10:29am

    Back Door hypocrisy

    I don't see anybody mentioning the hypocrisy of the Back Door issue.

    Authorities want back doors to the communications of people, and yet they close the back doors for vulnerable people which were wide open.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 3 Oct 2018 @ 10:40am

      Re: Back Door hypocrisy

      That is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. The groups advocating for back dooring communications are not the same people trying to punish prostitutes for what they consider amoral behaviour.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: Back Door hypocrisy

        The same folk who wish to punish others for transgressions that, in their minds, are the most heinous all the while defending their buddies who are guilty of what they abhor and worse.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 11:06pm

          Sins and laws are for other people.

          It's become really evident that government officials, churches, activist groups and police all abide by the same notion: we forgive our own. Everyone else is guilty.

          It's the mechanics of bigotry.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            TDR, 4 Oct 2018 @ 3:01pm

            Re: Sins and laws are for other people.

            Unless you've been to every single one, you can't make that as a, true statement. Generalizations are always wrong. Don't make them.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 3 Oct 2018 @ 10:37am

    "In the business world, if you push for a proposal, once it's implemented, people check to see whether what you claimed would happen would -- and if it didn't, you're often asked to explain why not."


    Actually if it didn't you are usually escorted to the door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      Actually if it didn't you are usually escorted to the door.

      Or you get a big raise if you are a CEO!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 4:30am

      Re:

      In my experience, unless it's a very large, very publicly-visible failure, people aren't often held accountable.

      For one thing, in most IT projects, the goals and requirements change so often that by the end of the project it doesn't look anything like the original proposal. It's rarely the fault of any one person, but a failure of overall leadership.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 11:16am

    Follow the money...

    It would be nice if some reporters actually ask Representatives like Ann Wagner and Mimi Walters, or Senators like Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal how they feel about the fact that the bad law that they pushed for,...

    Considering how poorly FOSTA achieves the publicly stated goals, the only logical conclusion is that the above mentioned politicians were paid by pimps to pass this law. Isn't there a term for someone who works for a pimp?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TRX, 3 Oct 2018 @ 1:16pm

    >The closing down of various online forums for sex workers has driven more sex workers into the street, where their lives are at significantly higher risk:
    ---
    Perhaps finding a new trade that doesn't involve being a criminal would help?

    If they're not properly employed in one of eight counties in Nevada, or accredited as a licensed sex therapist in jurisdictions that recognize such things, they're doing something society has made unlawful.

    "Doctor, it hurts when I do that..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      Perhaps finding a new trade that doesn't involve being a criminal would help?

      Perhaps having jobs available that pay a living wage first would help them do that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      This particular argument has a nice shiny appeal because it seems like a simple solution.

      However, as a solution, it ignores the realities of what the people who are sex workers face. Perhaps they tried to find work in other areas, and were unable to. Perhaps their current employment history also acts to prevent them from being hired in other fields. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps ...

      It's very easy to say "Well find another job then!" when you don't know the circumstances of the people in that line of work. You have to put yourselves in the shoes of the affected people, understand their lives and the circumstances around the choices they have made, to be able to make any kind of qualified judgement as to what they could have done better.

      This is before you get into the thorny issues of the criminalization of prostitution, such as whether it should even be criminalized and what the purpose and point of the criminalization of it is, and whether the current laws actually have that effect.

      It's always important to remember that these are people. Just because someone is a prostitute, does not mean they are no longer a person - we need to treat them with the base level of respect we should afford to every human.

      And if someone does go off on the "but they're criminals" tangent, remember that prostitution in and of itself is not comparable to and should not be compared to violent crimes or actions that make victims of others. Don't think of them as criminals - if you must categorize them in some fashion, think of them as victims. It will be a safer brush to paint with.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:25pm

      Can someone pick up that phone?

      ... What did I just say?

      'If the job is so dangerous they can always find another, safer job. They chose the job knowing the risks, so ultimately it's their own fault.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:49pm

      Re:

      "Perhaps finding a new trade that doesn't involve being a criminal would help?"

      Why is it illegal? You say there are no megahorny politicians?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:48am

        Re: Re:

        **Why is it illegal? You say there are no megahorny politicians?**

        The illegality is a fig leaf the politicians use to hide their proclivities. I don't like prostitution but there's got to be a better way to manage it than making it illegal and endangering people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 10:34am

      Re:

      Perhaps finding a new trade that doesn't involve being a criminal would help?

      What a genius response. I'm sure they're turning tricks because they had lots of other job opportunities. You're probably the same type who also opposes funding for job training or effective welfare programs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 2:07pm

    _FOSTA is enabling much more trafficking by empowering pimps_

    Well duh, it's always about giving power to the gatekeeping sector, who merely insert themselves and claim territory and legitimacy, which they are then, unaccountably, handed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Manny, 3 Oct 2018 @ 2:35pm

    New lawsuit against fosta

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 2:40pm

    The ones that approved such bill have real blood in their hands. Real rape, real physical harm. Remember that when you vote America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 4:21pm

      Re:

      The problem is that nearly everybody, in both houses, supported this.

      If you're saying people should just vote against every incumbent, okay, but what if there's no evidence that the challenger would have voted any differently?

      The problem is just how universally this was supported, and how hard it is to find anyone in Washington politics who opposed it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Well of course the majority voted in favor of making it law. They were told by people (who themselves "appeared" credible) in the same social circles that this law, as written, was needed and good. What is a poor lawmaker to do when the only voices they hear all day are speaking about the importance of this bill among their other duties?

        Of course excusing lawmakers from the arduous task of understanding the things they pass is ludicrous. That is their job, to pass laws. That means they must also take the time to read and understand the impacts of the bills they pass. But why do that when all they seem to really care about is the appearance of doing the right thing.

        So what did we do? We sent them information and we tried talking to them. But we are only lowly constituents that don't have deep pockets and can't give the politician access to special networking opportunities. So we (in a general sense) are ignored by our own elected representatives because we can't further their career in politics on a daily basis.

        Because we don't seem to matter and the politicians are so far removed from us and reality, they listened to special interests that are present in capital hill almost daily. And the politicians just took it as truth that this law was necessary. Obviously stopping sex trafficking is good and no one would rightly oppose that thought. But the politicians didn't take the time to ask how the bill would be effective or even require a metric to determine if the law was working once passed. They only cared that it look good that they are against sex trafficking.

        None of those politicians will be held accountable for the increase of violent crimes as a result of this law. There is no brightly colored path making that connection. We as rational people can make that connection but logic left capital hill a long time ago.

        But this does bring up an idea worth exploring. Should all bills, prior to becoming law, require pairing to a metric that can be gathered to determine if the law is working effectively? If the law isn't working according to that metric then the law should automatically be wiped or at least require that Congress review it to make the decision of alter or remove.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But this does bring up an idea worth exploring. Should all bills, prior to becoming law, require pairing to a metric that can be gathered to determine if the law is working effectively? If the law isn't working according to that metric then the law should automatically be wiped or at least require that Congress review it to make the decision of alter or remove.

          1. Great idea.
          2. It'll never happen. :(

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sneed Urn, 4 Oct 2018 @ 12:53am

    You do remember "Mission Accomplished", yes? Until Money becomes less important than Democracy that will remain the way of our world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 2:26am

    Welcome back, middlemen

    Doing business online is all about cutting middlemen and other intermediaries that add zero value to the actual purchase.

    In truth, FOSTA is yet another law created to protect legacy industries and their obsolete business models, all under the guise of protecting/empowering consumers.

    Congrats to pimps of DC for their lobbying success.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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