I bet you think content censorship doesn’t effect your life at all. I’d disagree with that. When’s the last time you had no idea where your phone was? Or the last time you weren’t connected to the Internet in one way or another? It’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Me, too, if I’m being honest.
We pretty much live online these days, especially in this pandemic era. And… even if you’re not aware of it yet, content censorship is a real problem. It’s a problem I’ve recently spoken about onstage at ShePodcasts LIVE earlier this year.
Content Censorship & FOSTA-SESTA
Content censorship, in particular the passing of the FOSTA-SESTA bill, is an important topic to me as a sex worker. (Yes, I consider the work I do to be sex work. It’s a stigma that’s been hanging around too long and it’s time we get rid of it.) One of the main reasons it’s so important to me is because the Internet is one of the few ways I have to communicate with my community at large.
And, y’all. SESTA & FOSTA have made it so difficult. Now, I’m not gonna bore you with details of the bills until your eyes glaze over, but I do want to tell you about the parts of the bill that currently effect me… plus how it could effect you in the future! (however, if you do wanna read up on ’em in detail, click here: 1, 2, 3.)
To put it simply, this bill came about as a way for the government to sue Backpage.
Showing you the breakdown of the names of the bill might make this a little clearer for you. Here’s the explanation from wikipedia: “The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) are the U.S. Senate and House bills that as the FOSTA-SESTA package became law on April 11, 2018.”
So, the intent was to stop sex trafficking… despite Backpage already cooperating with authorities to do just that throughout their existence! In fact, it was argued that this content censorship bill could make it MORE difficult to monitor sex traffickers.
Oof. I mean, that’s all I can really say. Haha.
Here’s what FOSTA-SESTA *really* did:
- The bill created an exception that would make websites legally liable for any content that helped facilitate sex trafficking or prostitution — even if it was consensual.
- It has made it harder to distinguish consensual sex work and people being trafficked.
- The bill eliminated one of the few places to safely perform consensual sex work.
- Websites were shut down:
- Backpage: Seized for prostitution and tax evasion
- Craigslist: Personal ad sections were deleted before the law went into effect.
- Sites started to use AI programs to regulate content that might be violate the law. Anything in the gray area is flagged and blocked.
How does this Content Censorship Effect Me?
That last one feels familiar doesn’t it? Have you had to spend any time in Facebook jail the last couple years? Blame FOTSA-SESTA. Been banned from going Live on TikTok? It’s possible you’re a victim of content censorship.
In fact, members in gardening groups all over the world are getting banned for asking their communities what their favorite hoe is! Because these bots don’t have human intelligence, they are unable to determine meaning, so they just go straight to the ban.
Yes, even if you call your best bitch “My best bitch”. That’s gotten me more than one warning… and it’s a legitimate term of affection!
It just seems so silly, right? There are efforts happening right now to repeal the FOSTA-SESTA censorship bill. Click here to find out how you can help.
And in the meantime, be sure to sign up for newsletters, notifications and other things for those working in the sex, relationship, and pleasure industries, cause otherwise you might not get a chance to spend time with us in the future. We’re a pretty fun group.