How Mark Warner's 'SAFE TECH Act' Will Make Many People A Lot Less Safe

from the putting-people-at-risk dept

I've already explained how Senator Mark Warner's "SAFE TECH Act" is an attack on the open internet. However, it goes beyond that. Over at OneZero, Cathy Reisenwitz has written a compelling op-ed explaining how the SAFE TECH Act will actually make the internet a lot less safe for many people.

In some ways, her argument builds on what we already know about the disastrous human impact of FOSTA -- the last attack on Section 230 that was sold to the public as a way to "protect women and children" online. In fact, the evidence now suggests that after FOSTA sex trafficking increased and made it that much more difficult for law enforcement to find and stop sex trafficking. Some in Congress are finally realizing that FOSTA was perhaps a mistake and would like to study the impact of it.

One would hope that this is allowed to happen before Senators like Warner are allowed to ram through further changes that they don't seem to understand.

As Reisenwitz writes, everything about the SAFE TECH Act would create more harm -- again with sex workers being put at significant risk.

Like SESTA/FOSTA, the SAFE TECH Act would make it easier for those in power to stifle unpopular speech across the web. It would strip away Section 230 protections for any web service that “has accepted payment to make the speech available.”

While many believe the law applies only to paid advertising, it’s written so broadly that it would apply to all content on any platform where money changes hands, including Substack, OnlyFans, Patreon, Bandcamp, Amazon Createspace, Kindle, Gumroad, and Medium. Perhaps most frighteningly, it would also apply to essentially all paid web hosting and even nonprofits or activist groups that sell merch or accept donations.

Warner has insisted that it won't be worth it to sue smaller sites, but that's just laughable. Is he just completely unaware of how often smaller sites get sued? Reisenwitz points this out:

People sue small websites all the time, for a variety of reasons, including with the express intent of shutting them up or shutting them down. After all, billionaire Peter Thiel didn’t sue Gawker because he needed the money. Other examples abound, including Vandersloot v. Mother Jones, Scherick v. Jezebel, and Scottsdale v. The Deal.

The SAFE TECH Act would just make these kinds of lawsuits easier.

She also notes how things like the #MeToo movement would likely have been impossible if the SAFE TECH Act were law when that movement first started:

Under the SAFE TECH Act, the #MeToo movement would likely have never gotten off the ground. Section 230 helps protect platforms from spurious lawsuits — but under the SAFE TECH Act, most platforms would have to heavily moderate any posts about sexual misconduct to avoid lawsuits from rich, powerful men who want to avoid accountability.

When it comes to how Section 230 carve-outs work out in real life, SESTA-FOSTA is instructive. SESTA was supposed to fight sex trafficking by holding platforms liable for any sex trafficking that happened on their sites. But after it passed, platforms started indiscriminately booting sex workers and sex-related content.

The results were deadly.

She then goes on to detail a litany of harm, specifically to sex workers, from FOSTA:

Sex workers lost income as the sites we advertised on shut down or kicked us off. “We watched people wind up homeless overnight,” sex trafficking survivor Meg Munoz, who founded a sex worker services organization in Southern California, told Rolling Stone of the law’s impact. As sex workers’ income dwindled from losing the ability to advertise, sex workers started getting desperate and taking clients who seemed dangerous or unstable because we needed the money.

Not only could we not advertise online, but we also could no longer find, negotiate with, or vet clients in advance. SESTA-FOSTA is “forcing me to go back the streets,” a Phoenix-area escort named Melissa told HuffPost. Street-based work is far more dangerous than indoor sex work. We also lost the ability to share safety information with each other. Clients raped and beat sex workers who lost access to bad-date lists and identity verification.

“We are having our blacklists shut down—websites where the sex worker community would post and warn other providers about dangerous clients from robbery, assault, rape, and even murder,” Los Angeles–based escort Kendall said. Outreach organizations reported a spike in missing and dead sex workers after SESTA-FOSTA.

SESTA-FOSTA is “a death sentence for me,” said one sex worker.

“We watched people literally walk back to their pimps, knowing they had lost any bit of autonomy they had,” Munoz told Rolling Stone. “We watched members of our community disappear.”

That's just a snippet. The article has many more examples and links. We've already seen how much damage FOSTA has done, and it's absurd that we're now getting bills like the SAFE TECH Act, which would just exacerbate this problem. What's really ridiculous is that, by now, people in Congress should know this, but it seems that, with Warner especially, he has decided to only listen to misleading claims from people who hate Section 230. That's no way to make good law.

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Filed Under: fosta, mark warner, safe tech act, safety, section 230, unintended consequences


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 12:09pm

    What’s sad is that few people will care about this particular prong of the story because we’re talking about sex workers in this instance. “Polite” society has trained people to think of sex workers as disposable objects instead of actual people.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. B. 'Two Be' Pitied, 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:31pm

      Re: No, what's "sad" is that think you're being "kind" to them.

      What’s sad is that few people will care about this particular prong of the story because we’re talking about sex workers in this instance.

      Very few can bear the degradation of catering to richer people's fantasies and the resulting messes. Why do you want more degradation, particularly of women? You really are a misogynist, yet again advocating the degrading of women.

      “Polite” society has trained people to think of sex workers as disposable objects instead of actual people.

      No, it's more observation that people in the biz inevitably fall into misery and despair. I have every sympathy, but unlike you misogynists don't encourage people to go wrong.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:56pm

        Why do you want more degradation, particularly of women?

        Bold of you to assume my pro–sex worker stance means I want “degradation” of women.

        As far as I’m concerned, if any adult willingly enters into sex work and enjoys what they do for a living, they should be neither shamed, degraded, or otherwise mistreated for it. Their body, their rules. (And I’m in favor of decriminalizing sex work in that regard.)

        The degradation of sex workers, on the other hand, comes from people like you — people who think all sex workers are either abused underage children who are sold into slavery and constantly raped, “whores” who can’t do anything else, “drugged-up idiots” who are being exploited by pimps, or whatever other negative stereotypes you can imagine. People like you, who think every person who does sex work willingly must have been abused or forced into it, are far more degrading and demeaning towards them than my saying “society doesn’t give a shit about sex workers in general” will ever be.

        people in the biz inevitably fall into misery and despair

        Maybe if society had a better idea of what sex workers do in their daily lives and go through as part of their chosen professions, it might find ways to improve those conditions such that “misery and despair” stops being “inevitable”. Decriminalizing sex work and giving sex workers the tools to do their jobs with more safety would be a swell start. (So would raising the minimum wage on regular-ass jobs.)

        I have every sympathy

        You don’t sympathize with actual sex workers who want to do their jobs in as safe an environment as possible. You pity them for not being “better people” — for not fitting into some kind of societal mold or template or whatever that you believe they should. People like you see sex workers — willing, maybe even enthusiastic about their jobs — and think they’re either on the way to being broken or not deserving of help if they already are, and only because their work involves sex.

        And that’s pretty fucking degrading.

        (also it’s sexist as hell because of the implicit assumption in your comment that all sex workers are women)

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 2:11pm

          Re:

          Maybe if society had a better idea of what sex workers do in their daily lives and go through as part of their chosen professions, it might find ways to improve those conditions such that “misery and despair” stops being “inevitable”. Decriminalizing sex work and giving sex workers the tools to do their jobs with more safety would be a swell start. (So would raising the minimum wage on regular-ass jobs.)

          Not treating them like sub-human filth, to the point that when people pointed out that a proposed law would not help sex workers but put them in very real danger and even get them killed those points were just shrugged off might have help do something about any 'misery and despair' as well. Knowing that other people don't care if you die because they don't agree with the job you're in is just a tad harmful to a person's mental state I imagine.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 26 Mar 2021 @ 2:04pm

        Re: Re: No, what's "sad" is that think you're being "kind" to th

        Very few can bear the degradation of catering to richer people's fantasies and the resulting messes. Why do you want more degradation, particularly of women? You really are a misogynist, yet again advocating the degrading of women.

        Ah, so you are arguing it's better for women to pimped out to lowlifes and unstable persons instead? Well, I guess we found the real misogynist since you don't want their situation to improve.

        No, it's more observation that people in the biz inevitably fall into misery and despair. I have every sympathy, but unlike you misogynists don't encourage people to go wrong.

        They end up in the prostitution because of misery and despair. You lack sympathy, you feign it badly when it suits your purposes. From what you have said so far, you don't actually care about these women unless you can use their plight as an argumentative bat.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2021 @ 5:38pm

        Re: Re:

        Bro you spent four years deep throating a President who grabbed women by the pussy. Your best anti-Masnick advocate is a MGTOW who believes women sleep their way into power.

        That horse you rode in on is dead, killed by the shards of glass from the house you used to live in until you decided throwing stones while still inside was a big brain play.

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

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 27 Mar 2021 @ 5:07am

        Re: Re: No, what's "sad" is that think you're being "kind" to th

        You really are a misogynist, yet again advocating the degrading of women.

        Oh look, a SWERF. Pass.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 12:17pm

    That's a feature, not a bug

    Like SESTA/FOSTA, the SAFE TECH Act would make it easier for those in power to stifle unpopular speech across the web. It would strip away Section 230 protections for any web service that “has accepted payment to make the speech available.”

    Oh look, what is almost certainly the true motivation for and goal of the law...

    Warner has insisted that it won't be worth it to sue smaller sites, but that's just laughable.

    As rebuttals go that's a very telling one, as he's not saying that it can't be used to go after smaller sites, merely that he thinks(wrongly) that it won't be which is rather like saying that there's no need for anti-SLAPP laws because no-one would ever sue some random schmuck to shut them up and/or punish them for speaking... ignoring the long history of that happening.

    This bill is in no way an attempt to protect speech it's a full blown assault against it and deserves to be called out as such until it becomes so toxic that no politician wants to touch it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2021 @ 12:28pm

      Re: That's a feature, not a bug

      Assuming he even believes what he said, it is probably due to the "everyone hates the extra-large big tech guys" theory. The other stuff? Well he's never heard of it. "Is that really a thing?" he might ask.

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

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 12:31pm

    Here’s my brief response on Reforming Section 230... *ahem*...

    Don’t.

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

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 12:44pm

    The US government: Making digital legislation as comprehensive and sensical like the Third Crusade.

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:07pm

    The cruelty is the point. Sex workers are seen as undesirable by Congress & co. and so they're legislating to make it impossible on the grounds that all of the homo economicus will simply take up other work. But just saying that they're punishing some of the most vulnerable people in the US wouldn't be polite though, so they frame it as something else.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      But just saying that they're punishing some of the most vulnerable people in the US wouldn't be polite though

      Sadly and horrifically enough proposing and defending a law with the equivalent of 'if they didn't want to get raped they shouldn't have dressed like that' would sell quite well for a good number of people. Horrible, monstrous people, but a higher than zero number of people.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    B. B. 'Two Be' Pitied, 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:22pm

    It's WRONG to make life 'easier' for those doing WRONG.

    "Sex workers" might be pitied and attempted to reform, but NEVER conditions bettered: that'll just lure more into misery. -- And ever since I read "The Happy Hooker", which you have not, I recognize that some in the biz put up a front that it's NOT horrible, but it IS, no matter what privileged and "enlightened" little Ivy League you may claim.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. B. 'Two Be' Pitied, 26 Mar 2021 @ 1:24pm

      Re: It's WRONG to make life 'easier' for those doing WRONG.

      Yet again, you're promoting "sex workers", yet never have a word of support for actual productive workers. You could, for instance, rail at the slavish conditions Amazon workers labor under, and IF you were actually at all "socialist" would advocate that Bezos be taxed at progressive rate -- that'd be over 100% with the tens of billions he got just in last year -- BUT NO. You're a corporatist, and this advocacy of people "working" in odious dehumanizing degrading way is just another aspect of your focus on MONEY: you're entirely amoral whenever your ilk can gain off human misery.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 26 Mar 2021 @ 2:19pm

      Re: It's WRONG to make life 'easier' for those doing WRONG.

      So you are gainsaying actual sex-workers? Because you read a book? From 1971?

      Your hubris is astounding.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2021 @ 5:41pm

      Re: It's WRONG to make life 'easier' for those doing WRONG.

      I usually take care to not quote your thread titles, but I left this one in to point out something: FOSTA and other similar laws don't make it harder for "those doing wrong". It convinces pimps and other traffickers - you know, the people doing wrong, the ones you think people should be angry about - to go underground where the police have even greater difficulty bringing them to justice and consequence.

      I know this sort of subtlety and logic sails over your head, but what you're doing is enabling people who do wrong by your book. Then again you're the kind of ignorant motherfucker who'd saw off someone's leg because you got an ingrown toenail, so...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2021 @ 6:21pm

    How likely is the bill to pass?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 26 Mar 2021 @ 6:24pm

    Who to sue?

    the rich person that can DEAL with it, and make it last Forever.
    The 1/2 way up the ladder people/sites??
    Bottom of the barrel that will Do anything to get you to leave them alone, and give you $1000-10,000.
    There are Allot of those on the bottom.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 29 Mar 2021 @ 2:05pm

    Feature?

    SESTA-FOSTA is “a death sentence for me,” said one sex worker. “We watched people literally walk back to their pimps, knowing they had lost any bit of autonomy they had,” Munoz told Rolling Stone. “We watched members of our community disappear.”

    Would it be too cynical to speculate that that could have been a desired outcome of the bill?

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


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