In case you haven’t heard, the US House of Representatives just passed a particularly noxious piece of legislation called FOSTA last week. The Senate will vote on the bill next week. FOSTA stands for Allow States & Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and it will destroy free speech online, which includes every single way sex workers communicate and exchange information online to stay safe and organize our activism. Advocates for trafficking victims also voiced strenuous objections about how this bill will actively harm their work to protect the victims this legislation is
hiding behind claiming to help. The DoJ, although too late for the House vote, published a letter objecting to FOSTA (link opens a PDF). Passing FOSTA also means we will be run off of social media platforms, including blogs like mine. If you’ve heard any of the mainstream media talking about FOSTA, it is couched in typical sex trafficking hysteria rhetoric…in other words, absolute bullshit. Rewire News has a fantastic article on FOSTA and its equally obnoxious friend SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking online Act) complete with links to the original bills and other pertinent information and The Daily Dot published an article with quotes from sex workers’ rights activists on the legislation. Do not take this as hyperbole: FOSTA will cost lives. Full stop.
I wrote a guest column on Maggie McNeill’s blog a few weeks ago. In it, I wrote about the need for sex worker rights activists to be careful about the allies we let in, particularly a certain flavor of feminist who often don’t really have sex workers’ best interest at heart despite the thin veneer of support they show. Some allies, I realize, aren’t sure how to best support sex workers or need a way to do so that doesn’t require showing their own faces. Fair enough. Writing to your senators about FOSTA and your objection to it is a much needed form of support right now. You can identify however you want in relation to sex workers. Hell, there are plenty of valid reasons disconnected from sex work, such as the fact that FOSTA is a convenient vehicle for internet censorship.
If you’re not sure what to say about the need for sex workers to use online platforms to work safely and independently offline, or if you know what you want to say but aren’t quite sure how to compose your words, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects has a consensus statement that reflects the international demands from sex worker rights groups and advocates. If you’re connected to Twitter in any way, check out the Survivors Against FOSTA hashtag, where activists explain in great detail the harm that FOSTA poses for actual trafficking survivors. Put this in a letter or bring it up in calls to your senators before March 12, 2018, which is when the Senate votes on FOSTA. Be an ally we can be proud of!