The legislation SESTA/FOSTA, signed by President Donald Trump on April 11, 2018, shuts down websites where sex workers advertise, and removes the online safety tools that sex workers used to ensure their safety.
Specifically, this legislation makes it a crime to operate or manage a website that “promotes or facilitates prostitution,” vastly expanding liability for sites that host any content on which sexuality may be discussed. This has far-reaching implications for safety and freedom of expression worldwide: The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are already threatening of replicating these dangerous United States laws.
“When sex workers cannot vet their clients online, they don’t know if they’re a potential risk,” says Bella Robinson, executive director of Coyote Rhode Island (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). “Sex workers around the world have immediately felt the effects of the new law – loss of work, bodily autonomy and an increase in violence, murder and HIV infection. The new law also threatens those seeking or posting about harm reduction for sex workers on websites.”
Coyote Rhode Island ran an “After FOSTA” survey on 260 United States sex workers, within two weeks of FOSTA being signed into law. Those findings revealed a huge increase of violence and exploitation.
Between 2003 to 2009 when indoor prostitution was decriminalized in Rhode Island, a study revealed that gonorrhea decreased by 40 percent and rape decreased by 30 percent as noted in “Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health.”
Not only does access to online platforms help reduce violence and exploitation for sex workers, these platforms reduce the risk of violence to all women who meet men online. The findings of Scott Cunningham of Baylor University reveal that once online platforms like Craigslist became available there was a 17 percent reduction in female homicides.
SESTA/FOSTA further criminalizes sex workers, putting them at higher risk for violence, exploitation and contracting HIV. The most efficient way to decrease sex workers’ HIV risk is to decriminalize sex work, as noted in the Lancet.
Sex-workers from across the world attended Aids Conference 2018 and demanded the repeal of SESTA/FOSTA. They also led a direct action targeting global policymakers demanding the repeal of “condom for evidence laws” that undermine the health and safety of sex workers, and the general public.
See here for more information on the current lawsuit against SESTA/FOSTA.