The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of
Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.
The version of FOSTA that just passed the Senate combined an earlier version of FOSTA (what we call FOSTA 2.0) with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). The history of SESTA/FOSTA -- a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and
then was rushed through votes in both houses of Congress2 -- is a story about Congress' failure to see that its good intentions can result in bad law. It's a story of Congress' failure to listen to the constituents who'd be most affected by the
laws it passed. It's also the story of some players in the tech sector choosing to settle for compromises and half-wins that will put ordinary people in danger. Silencing Internet Users Doesn't Make Us Safer
SESTA/FOSTA undermines Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. Section 230 protects online platforms from liability for some types of speech by their users. Without Section 230, the Internet would look very different.
It's likely that many of today's online platforms would never have formed or received the investment they needed to grow and scale204the risk of litigation would have simply been too high. Similarly, in absence of Section 230 protections,
noncommercial platforms like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive likely wouldn't have been founded given the high level of legal risk involved with hosting third-party content.
The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know that their sites are being used for trafficking.
Importantly, Section 230 does not shield platforms from liability under federal criminal law. Section 230 also doesn't shield platforms across-the-board from liability under civil law: courts have allowed civil claims against online platforms
when a platform directly contributed to unlawful speech. Section 230 strikes a careful balance between enabling the pursuit of justice and promoting free speech and innovation online: platforms can be held responsible for their own actions, and
can still host user-generated content without fear of broad legal liability.
SESTA/FOSTA upends that balance, opening platforms to new criminal and civil liability at the state and federal levels for their users' sex trafficking activities. The platform liability created by new Section 230 carve outs applies retroactively
-- meaning the increased liability applies to trafficking that took place before the law passed. The Department of Justice has raised concerns about this violating the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, at least for the criminal provisions.
The bill also expands existing federal criminal law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know that their sites are being used
Finally, SESTA/FOSTA expands federal prostitution law to cover those who use the Internet to promote or facilitate prostitution. The Internet will become a less inclusive place, something that hurts all of us.
And if you had glossed over a little at the legal details, perhaps a few examples of the immediate censorship impact of the new law
SESTA's passage by the U.S. Senate has had an immediate chilling effect on those working in the adult industry.
Today, stories of a fallout are being heard, with adult performers finding their content being flagged and blocked, an escort site that has suddenly becoming not available, Craigslist shutting down its personals sections and Reddit closing down
some of its communities, among other tales.
SESTA, which doesn't differentiate between sex trafficking and consensual sex work, targets scores of adult sites that consensual sex workers use to advertise their work.
And now, before SESTA reaches President Trump's desk for his guaranteed signature, those sites are scrambling to prevent themselves from being charged under sex trafficking laws.
It's not surprising that we're seeing an immediate chilling effect on protected speech, industry attorney Lawrence Walters told XBIZ. This was predicted as the likely impact of the bill, as online intermediaries over-censor content in the attempt
to mitigate their own risks. The damage to the First Amendment appears palpable.
Today, longtime city-by-city escort service website, CityVibe.com, completely disappeared, only to be replaced with a message, Sorry, this website is not available.
Tonight, mainstream classified site Craigslist, which serves more than 20 billion page views per month, said that it has dropped personals listings in the U.S.
Motherboard reported today that at least six porn performers have complained that files have been blocked without warning from Google's cloud storage service. It seems like all of our videos in Google Drive are getting flagged by some sort of
automated system, adult star Lilly Stone told Motherboard. We're not even really getting notified of it, the only way we really found out was one of our customers told us he couldn't view or download the video we sent him.
Another adult star, Avey Moon was trying to send the winner of her Chaturbate contest his prize -- a video titled POV Blowjob -- through her Google Drive account, but it wouldn't send.
Reddit made an announcement late yesterday explaining that the site has changed its content policy, forbidding transactions for certain goods and services that include physical sexual contact. A number of subreddits regularly used to help sex
workers have been completedly banned. Those include r/Escorts , r/MaleEscorts and r/SugarDaddy .
As the sun sets on online freedoms, sex workers of all kinds are quietly and swiftly being silenced on social media. Rightfully they're fed up, and are fighting back with a new website Switter, a play on 'sex workers' and 'Twitter', which
is an alternative social network that's created by, and for, sex workers.
Switter's creation was initially in response to sites like Twitter, where those in the sex industry have been finding themselves "shadow banned", ie banned by the internet company acting on its own motivations rather than banned by
the laws of the land.
Sex workers have always been more or less banned by Facebook but since the new Sosta law, major companies are setting out to censor all sex content as th emores practical or cost effective way of addressing the Sosta requirement to censor sex
Even Skype, the platform that many independent sex workers use to run their private shows, has specified in their latest Code of Conduct that the services not be used for "inappropriate content or material" like "nudity" and
The new social network obviously can't be US based so the mantle has fallen to an Australian company, Assembly Four. The software is based on the open source Mastodon and does not have any built-in tracking, doesn't enforce real name policies,
and doesn't' ask for any personal information for profiles.
Its early days yet, but the fledging social network says it already has about 8,000 members.
The US has passed laws FOSTA/SESTA that make internet websites responsible for any user content related to sex trafficking. Websites can't distinguish sex trafficking from adult consensual sex work information so have respponded in the only
way they can be banning all sex work related content, just in case.
Cityvibe shut down completely,
the Erotic Review, the Yelp of the sex trade where men rate their experiences with sex workers, shut down advertisement boards in the United States,
NightShift shut down to review policies,
VerifyHim shut down its newsreel,
Craigslist personals section was shut down,
Reddit's prostitution-related subreddits were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs,
Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising,
WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites,
Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment,
Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law,
Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.
The sex trafficking sites Cityxguide and Backpage were reportedly seeing a surge in use by sex workers as the other sites shut down.
Perhaps there's an opportunity for European companies to get a look in and offer replacement services to the US.
The US authorities have taken control of a classified adverts website used by sex workers to advertise their services.
A notice was posted on Backpage.com's various international front pages late last week to inform visitors.
The site had previously shut down the adult section of its US site, but critics had alleged that prostitution ads had simply moved to other pages.
The authorities claim that some of the adverts were for trafficked sex workers, but such claims are generally hyped up by those campaigning to prohibit adult consensual sex work and rarely amount to any more than a few cases when properly
The US media has also reported that Backpage's co-founder Michael Lacey was arrested last week and his home raided.
The Californian authorities had previously attempted to close Dallas-based Backpage.com in 2016, when the state prosecuted the business's chief executive and two ex-owners - including Mr Lacey - over claims they had committed pimping offences
and generated millions of dollars by hosting sex trade ads. However, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the US's Communications Decency Act said that publishers should not be held responsible for content created solely by their users.
But last month, Congress passed a new law, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta). It states that websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts should no longer be granted
the same protection.
It has been reported that President Trump will sign a Senate-approved version of the act into law this week.
SESTA/FOSTA, a bill that president Donald Trump signed into law on April 11 continues to wreak havoc on the lives of sex workers across the United States and abroad.
After getting kicked off of platforms like Craigslist and advertising forums or pre-emptively limiting their digital footprint on social media platforms like Twitter, thousands of sex workers joined an alternative, decentralized social media
platform called Switter, where they hoped to safely connect with and vet safe clients.
But on Wednesday, Assembly Four, the organization that developed Switter, announced that its content delivery network provided by the web-hosting company Cloudflare removed and blocked Switter.
At the time of writing, Switter has nearly 49,000 members and more than 376,500 posts, an explosion of activity since the service was launched in late March.
Instagram has censored the hashtag #stripper and several related keywords that dancers use to find each other and organize online. Now, sex workers are taking to social media to spread the word, decry censorship, and suggest workarounds.
Currently, when you search Instagram for #stripper or #strippers, you are given a preview of just a couple top posts in the category. But if you click through to view the entire hashtag, the following message appears:
Recent posts from #strippers are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram's community guidelines.
The same thing was reportedly happening until very recently with a handful of related hashtags, including #yesastripper, #stripperstyle, and #stripperlife--but those appear to be back in action, demonstrating how quickly the sex work
community has to adapt and change.
Instagram has yet to comment about the censorship, but is surely because of the recent US internet censorship law FOSTA. This would make Instagram responsible should any posts to #stripper be used to facilitate sex trafficking. As Instagram
is unable to vet all such postings for possible traffcking then the only practical option is to ban all posts about sex work.
By Thursday morning, Instagram had apparently backed down, telling Jezebel that, the hashtag #stripper can again be used and seen by the community in the spirit in which they are intended.
Instagram sent a statement on Thursday effectively rescinding the ban:
The safety of our community is our number one priority and we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can create a safe and open environment for everyone, Instagram said in the statement. This includes constantly monitoring hashtag
behavior by using a variety of different signals, including community member reports. Access to recent posts and following hashtags are sometimes restricted based on content being posted with those hashtags. The hashtag #stripper can again
be used and seen by the community in the spirit in which they are intended.
Two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to block enforcement of FOSTA, the new federal law that silences online
speech by forcing speakers to self-censor and requiring platforms to censor their users. The plaintiffs are represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, Walters Law Group, and Daphne Keller.
In Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. v. United States , the plaintiffs argue that FOSTA is unconstitutional, muzzling online speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces well-established, general interest community forums
offline for fear of criminal charges and heavy civil liability for things their users might share.
FOSTA, or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But instead of focusing on the perpetrators of sex trafficking, FOSTA goes after online speakers, imposing harsh penalties for any
website that might facilitate prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. The vague language and multiple layers of ambiguity are driving constitutionally protected speech off the Internet at a rapid pace.
For example, plaintiff the Woodhull Freedom Foundation works to support the health, safety, and protection of sex workers, among other things. Woodhull wanted to publish information on its website to help sex workers understand what FOSTA
meant to them. But instead, worried about liability under FOSTA, Woodhull was forced to censor its own speech and the speech of others who wanted to contribute to their blog. Woodhull is also concerned about the impact of FOSTA on its
upcoming annual summit, scheduled for next month.
FOSTA chills sexual speech and harms sex workers, said Ricci Levy, executive director Woodhull Freedom Foundation. It makes it harder for people to take care of and protect themselves, and, as an organization working to protect people's
fundamental human rights, Woodhull is deeply concerned about the damaging impact that this law will have on all people.
FOSTA calls into serious question the legality of online speech that advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, or provides health and safety information to sex workers. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organization that is
also a plaintiff, advocates globally for ways to protect sex workers from violence, health risks, and other human rights abuses. The group is concerned that its efforts to expose abuses against sex workers and decriminalize voluntary sex
work could be seen as facilitating prostitution, or in some way assisting sex trafficking.
HRW relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media, said Dinah Pokempner, HRW General Counsel. We are worried that social media platforms and websites may block the sharing of this information out
of concern it could be seen as demonstrating a reckless disregard of sex trafficking activities under FOSTA. This law is the wrong approach to the scourge of sex trafficking.
But FOSTA doesn't just impede the work of sex educators and activists. It also led to the shutdown of Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section, which has imperiled the business of a licensed massage therapist who is another plaintiff in
this case. The Internet Archive joined this lawsuit against FOSTA because the law might hinder its work of cataloging and storing 330 billion web pages from 1996 to the present.
Because of the critical issues at stake, the lawsuit filed today asks the court to declare that FOSTA is unconstitutional, and asks that the government be permanently enjoined from enforcing the law.
FOSTA is the most comprehensive censorship of Internet speech in America in the last 20 years, said EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene. Despite good intentions, Congress wrote an awful and harmful law, and it must be struck down.
We are asking a court to declare the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 ("FOSTA") unconstitutional and prevent it from being enforced. The law was written so poorly that it actually criminalizes
a substantial amount of protected speech and, according to experts, actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
In our lawsuit, two human rights organizations, an individual advocate for sex workers, a certified non-sexual massage therapist, and the Internet Archive, are challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth
Amendments. Although the law was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of fighting sex trafficking, its broad language makes criminals of those who advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex workers and actually
hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
FOSTA made three major changes to existing law. The first two involved changes to federal criminal law:
First, it created an entirely new federal crime by adding a new section to the Mann Act. The new law makes it a crime to "own, manage or operate" an online service with the intent to "promote or facilitate" "the
prostitution of another person." That crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law further makes it an "aggravated offense," punishable by up to 25 years in prison and also subject to civil lawsuits if
"facilitation" was of the prostitution of 5 or more persons, or if it was done with "reckless disregard" that it "contributed to sex trafficking." An aggravated violation may also be the basis for an
individual's civil lawsuit. The prior version of the Mann Act only made it illegal to physically transport a person across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.
Second, FOSTA expanded existing federal criminal sex trafficking law. Before SESTA, the law made it a crime to knowingly advertise sexual services of a minor or any person doing so only under force, fraud, or coercion, and also
criminalized several other modes of conduct. The specific knowledge requirement for advertising (that one must know he advertisement was for sex trafficking) was an acknowledgement that advertising was entitled to some First Amendment
protection. The prior law additionally made it a crime to financially benefit from "participation in a venture" of sex trafficking. FOSTA made seemingly a small change to the law: it defined "participation in a
venture" extremely broadly to include "assisting, supporting, or facilitating." But this new very broad language has created great uncertainty about liability for speech other than advertising that someone might interpret
as "assisting" or "supporting" sex trafficking, and what level of awareness of sex trafficking the participant must have.
As is obvious, these expansions of the law are fraught with vague and ambiguous terms that have created great uncertainty about what kind of online speech is now illegal. FOSTA does not define "facilitate", "promote",
"contribute to sex trafficking," "assisting," or supporting" -- but the inclusion of all of these terms shows that Congress intended the law to apply expansively. Plaintiffs thus reasonably fear it will be applied
to them. Plaintiffs Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Human Rights Watch advocate for the decriminalization of sex work, both domestically and internationally. It is unclear whether that advocacy is considered "facilitating"
prostitution under FOSTA. Plaintiffs Woodhull and Alex Andrews offer substantial resources online to sex workers, including important health and safety information. This protected speech, and other harm reduction efforts, can also be seen
as "facilitating" prostitution. And although each of the plaintiffs vehemently opposes sex trafficking, Congress's
expressed sense in passing the law was that sex trafficking and sex work were "inextricably linked." Thus, plaintiffs are legitimately concerned that their advocacy on behalf of sex workers will be seen as being done in
reckless disregard of some "contribution to sex trafficking," even though all plaintiffs vehemently oppose sex trafficking.
The third change significantly undercut the protections of one of the Internet's most important laws, 47 U.S.C. § 230, originally a provision of the Communications Decency Act, commonly known simply as Section 230 or CDA 230:
FOSTA significantly undermined the legal protections intermediaries had under 42 U.S.C. § 230, commonly known simply as Section 230. Section 230 generally immunized intermediaries form liability arising from content created by
others--it was thus the chief protection that allowed Internet platforms for user-generated content to exist without having to review every piece of content appearing posted to them for potential legal liability. FOSTA undercut this
immunity in three significant ways. First, Section 230 already had an exception for violations of federal criminal law, so the expansion of criminal law described above also automatically expanded the Section 230 exception. Second,
FOSTA nullified the immunity also for state criminal lawsuits for violations of state laws that mirror the violations of federal law. And third, FOSTA allows for lawsuits by individual civil litigants.
The possibility of these state criminal and private civil lawsuit is very troublesome. FOSTA vastly magnifies the risk an Internet host bears of being sued. Whereas federal prosecutors typically carefully pick and choose which violations
of law they pursue, the far more numerous state prosecutors may be more prone to less selective prosecutions. And civil litigants often do not carefully consider the legal merits of an action before pursing it in court. Past experience
teaches us that they might file lawsuits merely to intimidate a speaker into silence -- the cost of defending even a meritless lawsuit being quite high. Lastly, whereas with federal criminal prosecutions, the US Department of Justice may
offer clarifying interpretations of a federal criminal law that addresses concerns with a law's ambiguity, those interpretations are not binding on state prosecutors and the millions of potential private litigants.
FOSTA Has Already Censored The Internet
As a result of these hugely increased risks of liability, many platforms for online speech have shuttered or restructured. The following as just two examples:
Two days after the Senate passed FOSTA, Craigslist eliminated its Personals section, including non-sexual subcategories such as "Missed Connections" and "Strictly Platonic." Craigslist
attributed this change to FOSTA, explaining "Any tool or service can be misused. We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can
bring them back some day." Craigslist also shut down its Therapeutic Services section and will not permit ads that were previously listed in Therapeutic Services to be re-listed in other sections, such as Skilled Trade Services or
VerifyHim formerly maintained various online tools that helped sex workers avoid abusive clients. It described itself as "the biggest dating blacklist database on earth." One such resource was JUST FOR SAFETY, which had
screening tools designed to help sex workers check to see if they might be meeting someone dangerous, create communities of common interest, and talk directly to each other about safety. Following passage of FOSTA, VerifyHim took down
many of these tools, including JUST FOR SAFETY, and
explained that it is "working to change the direction of the site."
Plaintiff Eric Koszyk is a certified massage therapist running his own non-sexual massage business as his primary source of income. Prior to FOSTA he advertised his services exclusively in Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section. That
forum is no longer available and he is unable to run his ad anywhere else on the site, thus seriously harming his business. Plaintiff the Internet Archive fears that it can no longer rely on Section 230 to bar liability for content
created by third parties and hosted by the Archive, which comprises the vast majority of material in the Archive's collection, on account of FOSTA's changes to Section 230. The Archive is concerned that some third-party content hosted by
the Archive, such as archives of particular websites, information about books, and the books themselves, could be construed as promoting or facilitating prostitution, or assisting, supporting, or facilitating sex trafficking under FOSTA's
expansive terms. Plaintiff Alex Andrews maintains the website RateThatRescue.org, a sex worker-led, public, free, community effort to share information about both the organizations and services on which sex workers can rely, and those
they should avoid. Because the site is largely user-generated content, Andrews relies on Section 230's protections. She is now concerned that FOSTA now exposes her to potentially ruinous civil and criminal liability. She has also
suspended moving forward with an app that would offer harm reduction materials to sex workers. Human Rights Watch relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media. It is concerned that social media
platforms and websites that host, disseminate, or allow users to spread their reports and advocacy materials may be inhibited from doing so because of FOSTA.
And many many others are experiencing the same uncertainty and fears of prosecution that are plaguing other advocates, service providers, platforms, and platform users since FOSTA became law.
We have asked the court to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law so that the plaintiffs and others can exercise their First Amendment rights until the court can issue a final ruling. But there is another urgent reason to halt
enforcement of the law. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation is holding its annual Sexual Freedom Summit August 2-, 2018. Like past years, the Summit features a track on sex work, this year titled "Sex as Work," that seeks to
advance and promote the careers, safety, and dignity of individuals engaged in professional sex work. In presenting and promoting the Sexual Freedom Summit, and the Sex Work Track in particular, Woodhull operates and uses interactive
computer services in numerous ways: Woodhull uses online databases and cloud storage services to organize, schedule and plan the Summit; Woodhull exchanges emails with organizers, volunteers, website developers, promoters and presenters
during all phases of the Summit; Woodhull has promoted the titles of all workshops on its Summit
website ; Woodhull also publishes the biographies and contact information for workshop presenters on its website, including those for the sex workers participating in the Sex Work Track and other tracks. Is publishing the name and
contact information for a sex worker "facilitating the prostitution of another person"? If it is, FOSTA makes it a crime.
Moreover, most, if not all, of the workshops are also promoted by Woodhull on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and Woodhull wishes to stream the Sex Work Track on Facebook, as it does other tracks, so that those who cannot
attend can benefit from the information and commentary.
Without an injunction, the legality under FOSTA of all of these practices is uncertain. The preliminary injunction is necessary so that Woodhull can conduct the Sex as Work track without fear of prosecution.
It is worth emphasizing that Congress was repeatedly warned that it was passing a law that would censor far more speech than was necessary to address the problem of sex trafficking, and that the law would indeed hinder law enforcement
efforts and pose great dangers to sex workers. During the Congressional debate on FOSTA and SESTA, anti-trafficking groups such as
Freedom Network and the
International Women's Health Coalition issued statements warning that the laws would hurt efforts to aid trafficking victims, not help them.
Even Senator Richard Blumenthal, an original cosponsor of the SESTA (the Senate bill) criticized the new Mann Act provision when it was proposed in the House bill, telling
Wired "there is no good reason to proceed with a proposal that is opposed by the very survivors it claims to support." Nevertheless, Senator Blumenthal ultimately voted to pass FOSTA.
In support of the
preliminary injunction , we have submitted the declarations of several experts who confirm the harmful effects FOSTA is having on sex workers, who are being driven back to far more dangerous street-based work as online classified
sites disappear, to the loss of online "bad date lists" that informed sex workers of risks associated with certain clients, to making sex less visible to law enforcement, which can no longer scour and analyze formerly public
websites where sex trafficking had been advertised. For more information see the Declarations of
Dr. Alexandra Lutnick ,
Prof. Alexandra Frell Levy , and
Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco .
Supporters of the US internet censorship law FOSTA were supposedly attempting to target pimps and traffickers, but of course their target was the wider sex work industry. Hence they weren't really interested in the warning that the law
would make it harder to target pimps and sex traffickers as their activity would be driven off radar.
Anyway it seems that the police at least have started to realise that the warning is coming true, but I don't suppose this will bother the politicians much.
Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger
right at the shutdown of Backpage:
The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD's vice unit, have just dried up. The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police's best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier
this year. Daggy explained:
We've been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down. I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.
With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story. Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There's a ton of evidence at a crime scene. Now, since
[Backpage] has gone down, we're getting late reports of them and we don't have much to go by.
YouTube has banned Erika Lust's series In Conversation with Sex Workers.
There was NO explicit content, NO sex, NO naked bodies, NO (female) nipples or anything else that breaks YouTube's strict guidelines in the series, Lust wrote on her website. It was simply sex workers speaking about their work and
Presumably the censorship is inspired by the US FOSTA internet censorship where YouTube would be held liable for content that facilitates sex trafficking. It is cheaper and easier for YouTube to take down any content that could in
anyway connected to sex trafficking than spend time checking it out.
Erika Lust, a Barcelona-based erotic filmmaker, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that YouTube terminated her eponymous channel on July 4, when it had around 11,000 subscribers. The ban came after an interviewee for the company's series
In Conversation With Sex Workers, which had been on YouTube for about a week, tweeted to promote her involvement in the film. Within hours of that tweet the channel was terminated, citing violation of community guidelines.
On Thursday, July 19, at 4 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to put enforcement of FOSTA on hold during the pendency of its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. The
hold is needed, in part, to allow plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a sex worker advocacy group, to organize and publicize its annual conference, held August 2-5.
FOSTA , or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But despite its name, FOSTA attacks online speakers who speak favorably about sex work by imposing harsh penalties for any
website that might be seen as facilitating prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. In Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. U.S. , filed on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a
certified massage therapist, EFF maintains the law is unconstitutional because it muzzles constitutionally protected speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces speakers and platforms to censor themselves.
Enforcement of the law should be suspended because the plaintiffs are likely to win the case and because it has caused, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, EFF co-counsel Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright
Tremaine will tell the court at a hearing this week on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Because of the risk of criminal penalties, the plaintiffs have had their ads removed from Craigslist and censored information
on their websites. Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation has censored publication of information that could assist sex workers negatively impacted by the law. FOSTA threatens Woodhull's ability to engage in protected online speech,
including livestreaming and live tweeting its August meeting, unless FOSTA is put on hold.
Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. heard Woodhull's request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from remaining in effect until the group's lawsuit, but did not issue a judgement. Nor
did he announce a date when he would issue a ruling.
According to one account from inside the courtroon, Leon sounded skeptical that the law had actually caused harm to the plaintiffs in the case.