The Impact of Sesta/Fosta — how the discrimination of sex workers is spreading
If you’re in the industry, you’re likely no stranger to the potential impact of SESTA/FOSTA. Presented as a strike against sex trafficking, this law turned into a legitimate threat to free speech with the potential to end the livelihood of thousands of sex workers striving to make a living online. Now the oil spill that is SESTA/FOSTA is spreading, with more and more groups being impacted.
The most recent example comes from Salty, a publication described as “a newsletter for (& by) badass women, trans & non-binary peeps”. The digital publication submitted six ads for promotion on Instagram that were all rejected on the grounds of ‘promoting escorting services.’ The problem? They’re not. The ads that were submitted featured a wide variety of models, none of whom were dressed or presented in a way that interferes with Instagram’s advertising policies. The models featured were not sex workers, they merely represented a heteronormative perspective. Instagram dismissed the issue as an error and was quick to reinstate the ads, but the fact that there seems to be a bullseye on the LGBTQ community has many people questioning if the problem may be deeper than that.
There’s a lot of legal-ese to fight through, but it’s important to understand. SESTA/FOSTA was enacted with particular goals, first and foremost to make it illegal to knowingly assist, organize, or support the act of sex trafficking. However, in the short time since these bills have passed, individuals in the adult industry have already suffered setbacks due to the vague nature of what those parameters are and when they begin to interfere with freedom of speech. Adult entertainment is a wide and varied area, and it seems that the industry as a whole, and now some groups on the sidelines, have become caught up in the SESTA/FOSTA net.
The problem is that the bills haven’t created a clear line between ‘sex trafficking’ and ‘adult entertainment’ which is part of a bigger problem. On the surface there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the intent of these bills–but since they don’t specify what constitutes sex work it defeats their intended purpose and harms instead of helps. Without creating that criteria, many people who make an honest and consensual living in the online adult industry may be cut off at the neck.
The bills are weakening the right to free speech online, and threatening the livelihood of many people who are making a safe living as adult entertainers. Now it’s pulling other ‘atypical’ groups into the mix, for what looks to be no reason at all. The bills are vague, so their interpretation can be vague…leading entities like Instagram free to remove any content they may not agree with with little to no consequences. “It was a mistake” is easy to say–but what about individuals who aren’t able to speak up as loudly to have those mistakes fixed?
A bigger solution may be out there, but for now it’s important to stay vigilant and, as Salty did, speak out. Get involved and make your voice heard.