Death of online privacy due to SESTA and FOSTA

There has been much written and talk about the Facebook data leak at the hands of Cambridge Analytics. What I don’t think folks realize is that has all been rendered pointless through recent legislatu…

There has been much written and talked about the Facebook data leak at the hands of Cambridge Analytics. What I don’t think folks realize is that has all been rendered pointless through recent legislature at the federal level. While there was congressional hearings where Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, was subjected to “grueling grilling” by members of congress, other members of congress were passing legislation requiring all US-based internet providers to sensors and monitor all activity on their systems. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Recently two federal legislations became law, Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). The names of these laws make claims that all decent human being can’t help but get behind, I mean who doesn’t support fighting Sex Trafficking, or any form of human trafficking for that matter. This may have contributed to how quickly this passed through congress., there was only like one or two nay votes on these bills. As is so often the case the name of these bills and the associated sound bits are misleading or dare I say fraudulent and manipulated. These bills do nothing to stop or fight sex trafficking as most people would interpret that term. Instead what these bills do is take away any sort of safety net that sex workers might have, increasing the chance they be abducted into the sex slave industry, attacked, abused or just plain killed, and in the process kill all online privacy.

Let me start by declaring that human trafficking is a horrific problem that any decent human being would be against. It’s not a new problem, just a modern name for the centuries old slave trading issue. Also this isn’t isolated to sex work industry, so to frame the issue as a sex trafficking is just wrong. Slave trading or human trafficking is known to be a problem in garment industry and there are rumors of it existing in the farming industry as well. I’m sure there are other industries plagued with it as well that we just don’t hear about. Why don’t we hear about garment trafficking (the news accurately refer to those cases as human trafficking), that would make just as much sense as talking about sex trafficking. Lets call a spade a spade and just refer to the whole problem as slave trading, because ultimately that’s what it is. In order to solve the slave trading problem we need to focus on it holistically. Even if we were to manage to stop one particular industry from using slaves, that does nothing to stop the overall slave trade problem. The slave traders would just focus on the other industries. So let’s stop using the phrase sex trafficking as it really does nothing but skew the issue.

Now back to my statement that SESTA and FOSTA are more likely to increase the slave trading in the sex industry, and possible other industries as well, than they are to reduce it. Let me explain my thinking there, which is influenced by Twitter posts from actual sex workers along with common sense and critical thinking. The bill promoters proclaim that by shutting down platforms used by sex workers, preventing them from both networking and advertising their services, they won’t be able to find any clients and ta-da all human traffic problems are now solved because all sexworkers are certainly nothing more than sex slaves. Obviously the slave traders are just dumb brutes and if they can’t take out ads on BackPage they’re just going to let all their victims go free and become law-abiding citizens that respect women. Hopefully you caught on to the dripping sarcasm in that statement. If you found those statements dumb beyond believe, congratulation you are capable of critical thinking. I seriously doubt that the slave traders are advertising on the open internet, and finding one or two isolated cases of that does not a trend make. I believe most of criminal activity, including slave trading, happens on the black market and the dark web. Shutting down sites like BackPage wont do one iota of difference or deter criminals one bit. I believe the men that do business with slave traders, especially those that specialize in selling women for sex, are your average wife beaters, rapists and men who think abusing women is just good old fun sport. I believe no decent guy would do business with guys like that. I am of the believe that all criminals (including rapists, abusers, etc) network together through word of mouth, dark web and general black market and they do not rely on public online marketplaces that hard working providers depend on for their livelihood.

What is important here is to differentiate between sex workers that have chosen sex work as their preferred carrier, versus folks that have been kidnapped and sold into slavery and forced to do sex work. Any guy that understands consent (i.e. not a rapists) can easily tell the difference and would not do business with those types.

What happens when you shut down sites like BackPage and the like is you are taking away the livelihood of women that have voluntarily chosen to work in the sex industry. Now they need to scramble for new ways to find clients, which usually means taking to the streets. This results in rapid increase in street walking sex workers. Street walking sex workers are extremely vulnerable to predators, rapists, kidnappers and murderers. This means that the likelihood that they be kidnapped and sold into sex slavery goes up significantly. So instead of eliminating the problem like the promoters of those bill would like you to think they end up making the problem worse. So instead of making life better for women and rescuing them from their captures, they are making things much worse risking them getting killed, abused and kidnapped. They are less likely to screen their clients and more likely to end up with rapists and killers.

SESTA and FOSTA hold online hosting provider responsible for any illicit or illegal activity taking place on their platform, including sex workers networking for safety. The only way any provider of any social media, online forum, or even email service, can be compliant with these laws is to monitor and censor everything that is going on. Skype has updated their terms of service prohibiting swearing and other offensive language, which I’m guessing they’re going to enforce by listen in and sensor every conversation. There are reports that providers are taking down sites that discuss something as important as safe sex, as well as reports that providers like Google are deleting PowerPoint slide decks that promote safe sex from peoples Google Drive. All this within the first week after these laws were signed, what do you think will happen as time goes on. I also recently saw reports that Amazon is considering removing steamy romance novels and errotica from their inventory as they include too much sexual stuff and they fear they will become target of SESTA/FOSTA selous enforcers. Do I need to mention what a chilling effect all censorship has on free speech? I doubt it so I leave that discussion to a possible future blog. Maybe SESTA/FOSTA will demand that this blog be taken down, I guess time will tell.

Here is my suggestion for how to combat the horrific problem of sex slaves. First let me pose a question: Who do you think is most likely to come across sex slaves and be in a position to do something about it. I think the answer is obvious. The person in the best position to notice and report on crimes going on in a particular industry are the honest folks working in that industry. So in this case sex workers would be in the best position to help combat this horrific problem. Arresting and abusing honest sex workers or their clients that would never harm a fly certainly isn’t going to do anything stop the problem.

So here is my recommended plan:

  1. Decriminalize sex work
  2. Law enforcement cultivates a trusting and cooperative relationship with the sex work industry. This is going to be tough due to decades of abuse by law enforcement against sex workers, while it is a difficult task, maybe even mission impossible, it is a crucial step and the onus is on law enforcement in general to gain trust. Unless law enforcement can gain the trust of sex workers there is no hope to stop the sex slave problem.
  3. After trust and cooperating has been established between sex workers and law enforcement then the two professions can establish a working relationship so when sex workers come across a slave trading case they can work with the community and law enforcement to stage an effective rescue and get the perps arrested.
  4. If clients of sex workers stumbles onto a provider that is being coerced they can bring that to law enforcement without fearing arrest.

Sex workers, just like any decent human beings, are horrified about the sex slave trading that goes on in the world. With the current climate getting involved when they come across a case like that is extremely risky for them. They’ll be arrested if they go to the police, and can get kidnapped themself if they get too close to the victim.
After sex work has been decriminalized and relations between law enforcement and sex workers have improved then sex workers can report assault to law enforcement without fear of being abused by the officer taking the report which would lead to the police having a chance to get some of the predators, abusers and rapists off the street. That in itself will help with the problem.

Abuse, slavery, kidnapping, rape, coercion, these are crimes already with hefty penalties. So there is no need for new legislation, just need to enforcement existing ones.

In the current climate there is the impression that law enforcement is more concerned with arresting sex workers than stopping abuse and slave trading and in many cases law enforcement are the abusers, multiple stories about sex workers reporting rape or abuse to the police only to be raped by the officer taking the report and then arrested for being a sex worker. While that sentiment is prevalent and society treats sex workers as disposable subhuman who aren’t worthy of any human right or dignity we’re not going to solve the slave trading problem.

The law seems to assume all sex workers are slaves, victims of slave trading and need to be rescued, after all no one could possible choose sex work. That assumption makes about as much sense as saying everyone in the textile and garment industry works in a sweet shop and is a victim of human trafficking. It is an absurd assumption that has absolutely no basis in reality.

My assumption and opinion is that the falsehood around sex work is fabricated by the conservative religious patriarchy that doesn’t want women to be able to control their body and their destiny. They are upset that women are taking control and profiting from their lust (which is no doubt against their religious beliefs). Just another way the patriarchy is trying to control women’s every move. I’m sure if they had their way women would still be their property, just like slaves were once, and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote or drive. I’m guessing they would rather decriminalize rape and assault than to decriminalize sex work (just how messed up would you have to be actually hold that believe?). Well the bad news for them is that we no longer live in the 18th century. Decent human beings of this century recognize that owning and controlling another human being is just plain wrong, just like any decent human being knows that assaulting anyone is wrong. I’m even going to go so far as saying that sexual assault is by far the worst type of an assault.

Now let’s debunk some of the objections to sex work that come to mind:

  • The most recent and prevalent campaign these days is the “no little girl wants to grow up to be a prostitute” campaign.
    • This claim is both absurd and completely lacking all factual basis
    • Should we be basing policies on what little girls want?
    • Why are these folks using little girls to slut shame sex workers, that is just beyond disturbing.
    • I’m willing to bet significant sum of money that if an objective and unbiased survey was conducted that significantly higher number of women would report wanting to be sex worker than say a waitress, a janitor, a maid, a secretary, etc.
    • BTW it has been uncovered that the folks behind this campaign had political motivation, big surprise there. Apparently they are supporting a candidate in Nevada that is competing with a Nevada Brothel owner for a legislative spot.
  • Then there are those that simply argue that sex work is illegal therefore it is wrong.
    • To those I advice to separate the difference between morally right and legal
    • To that point it used to be perfectly legal to abuse your wife as well as your slaves. After all they were just your property
    • Freeing slaves from an abusive owner was considering property theft and punishable under the law.
    • Thankfully society no longer tolerates those things but they are examples of cases where something was legal but wrong, and illegal but right.
  • Others are saying that choosing the sex work industry out of sense of survival, because they feel they have no other option, isn’t a valid choose as it is a choose made under duress and thus they are victims.
    • So under this argument choosing an industry that will enable you to pay your bills, put a roof over your head and food in your stomach is a bad thing???
    • How is this different from those that choose to work as waitress, a maid, a secretary? How many waitresses or maids are doing those jobs because they have a lot of other viable options and their choice is 100% free of any duress? I believe the answer is they are doing those jobs because it pays the bills.
    • They’ve identified that people who are doing their best to survive in this cruel world, identified that they chose their current profession as a last resort, so they decide to try to take their last resort away from them. How cruel and messed up is that?
  • Sex workers don’t enjoy their work, they’re just doing it for the money.
    • Again I’m willing to bet a significant amount of money that an objective and impartial survey will find a significantly higher job satisfaction among sex workers than say waitresses, secretaries, maids, etc. I’m guessing that sex workers would be good 20-30% higher in satisfaction rating.
    • “Just doing it for the money” isn’t that why pretty much why everyone is employed?? How is sex work different from any other industry in this regard?
    • Someone lands a really good paying job, maybe they don’t totally love the job but they love the money, maybe they feel a bit like an imposter. Does this scenario only play out in the sex industry? I think not, I think this happens in multiple industries all across the country all the time. Should we pass a law to make sure no one ever experiences this, like never, in any industry? If not why single out sex industry in this regard?
  • Sex work is demeaning and exploits women
    • I beg to differ big time with this one. This one rests completely on the shoulders of society at large and the patriarchy in particular. Sex work leverages societies desire to exploit women and empowers women to profit from this failing in society. I’m betting that this is exactly why the patriarchy is so upset with sex workers, and most likely the true reason behind SESTA, FOSTA and every other law that seeks to control sex workers and the sex industry. It’s about controlling women, not about saving them.
    • To those that hold that believe: Did you not follow the #MeToo campaign? Are you blaming sex workers for all the sexual violence in the world?
    • Two words: Rape Culture
    • Are you promoting that women quit their sex work, go work in an office somewhere for fraction of what they are currently making, so they can be harassed, used and assaulted? (See the #metoo campaign for details on this one).
  • They are selling their body
    • Doesn’t this argument work for any physical laborers? Don’t construction workers, welders, plumbers, carpenters, warehouse workers, etc., all sell their body in some way or another?
  • I could never be a sex worker, I find it demeaning and immoral
    • If we were to outlaw all professions that someone doesn’t like there wouldn’t be many professions left
    • If we are going to outlaw professions that are objectionable and immoral, lets start by eliminating used car sales, marketing and advertisements. Those industries are filled with fraud and manipulation, many times that what is seen in other industries. If fraud and manipulation isn’t immoral I don’t know what is.
  • Sex workers allow folks to avoid relationships
    • So are we now going to require everyone be in a relationship for the sake of being a couple. Are they going to assign you a partner now?
  • Sex workers encourage infidelity
    • To claim that people who cheat on their relationship with a sex worker is the sex workers fault and not the person doing the cheating is just beyond absurd.
    • Cheaters cheat, that’s what they do. While some of them might be using the services of a sex worker, I’m sure many more are cheating with non-sex workers (amateurs if you will)

There are numerous stories of sex workers taking what society would call normal job (sales clerk, waitress, maid, etc) and quit to go back to sex work because they couldn’t deal with sexual exploitation, harassment, etc. Other stories are about women getting fired from those “normal” jobs because management discovered they are former sex workers. The problem is not the sex worker or the sex worker industry, the problem is with society at large. To quote Jack Sparrow: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”

Sex workers provide an important service to society. There can be multitudes of reasons why someone might want physical intimacy but doesn’t want a traditional relationship.

  • They may lack the social skills to be able to find a romantic partner
  • They may not like the emotional baggage that all romantic relationships come with
  • They may have social anxiety to a point where the only physical intimacy they are capable of is with a sex worker
  • Their career may get in the way of maintaining relationships, or they are prioritizing their career over a relationship.
  • They simply just don’t want a relationship for reasons that are their own.

Society needs to be accepting and appreciated of these services that sex workers provide. Why force folks to be lonely, or in ill fitting relationship? Would it be better for a guy to manipulate a non-worker into having sex with him under the false pretense of a relationship or should the guy hire a sex worker to provide the physical intimacy he craves.

We should not be trying to control or discriminate about how people choose to earn a living. As long as there is no fraud, assault or murder involved it is all good. Let’s focus our effort on eradicating professional hit men, folks that use violence and assault in their career with organized crime, along with fraudsters and leave honest folks alone in choosing how they make a living. For example claiming to be a therapist when you lack the credentials, that would be fraud. However if someone can make a successful career out of just talking to folks about the problems while being honest about having no license or credentials no one should have a problem with that.

There are all sorts of service providers out there. You’ve got carpenters, plumbers, therapist, doctors, psychologist, etc. Sex workers need to be accepted to that list. When a person sets out to hire a service provider, they determine what their needs are, what skill set and service they seek, and set out to locate a service provide that fits their needs. Then they negotiate a statement of work, agree on a rate for the services rendered (including flat rate vs hourly) and the service commences. Why does it matter what the service is? Like I said above as long as there isn’t fraud involved, such as claiming to have credentials or experience you don’t have it should be all good. Naturally the service in question needs to be mutually and consensually agreed by all parties impacted or affected.

I shouldn’t have to say this but I’m going to say it anyway, it’s is never OK for a provider to assault their client or the client to assault the provider. Just because you are paying them does not give you the right to assault them.

In closing let’s examine some of the hypocrisy and double standards of laws related to sex work.

While there have been many males arrested in sex workers stings it is always, I believe, for being a customer. Has a man ever been arrested for being a sex worker?

What about labels? Society likes to label male sex worker gigolo which has a much more positive connotation than the prostitute term which is used for female sex workers. Let’s get rid of both terms and just use the generic term sex worker. Kind of how we got rid of steward vs stewardess and replaced it with attendant (i.e. flight steward vs flight attendant)

Why is sex work even illegal in the first place?

  • It is perfectly legal for people to just give each other money, you don’t need a reason to just hand a complete stranger money.
  • It is perfectly legal to ask another consenting adult to have sex with you
  • It is legal to pay someone to have sex with you on camera for the sake of pornography
  • However it is highly illegal to pay another consenting adult to have sex with you when there is no camera involved. That’s kind of messed up don’t you think?
  • Check out this tweet which captures this in a cartoon format
  • Check out the following hashtags for tweets on this topic