As an organization Life Preservers Project has a vested interest in human safety and freedom. We strive to see a world free from slavery. This includes, but is not limited to sex trafficking.
We also believe that men and women who chose alternative lifestyles or even sex work should be allowed the freedoms and tools to do so safely but FOSTA-SESTA threatens internet freedom.
As an organization, we are committed to net neutrality and internet safe harbor laws. Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act is critical for a variety of reasons including the most important: allowing providers the ability to provide us with the free flow of information regardless of the content. We do not need to like, nor agree with the content; but it should not be limited beyond the current protection of the First Amendment.
Impact of the FOSTA/SESTA
There are already laws in place to curtail the proliferation of sex trafficking content. “With the SAVE Act of 2015, Congress amended Section 1591 to make “advertising” sex trafficking a crime. Congress intended to target both the pimps who post sex trafficking ads and the online platforms who host such ads, including classified ad websites like Backpage.com” (See Stop SESTA)
Combating human trafficking and punishing traffickers is a matter of international concern and must be aggressively fought. Life Preservers applauds the intent behind the FOSTA/SESTA Act, but the new law creates sweeping implications to net freedom, the local furry club, your foot fetish site and even your google drive. Both voluntary sex work and alternative life styles are being swept up into this act.
Sex work advocates are seeing alarming rate of workers being sent back out onto the streets. There are studies that show deaths among sex workers went down by 17% with the advent of the various escort pages giving them the ability to screen clients online and work independently. Since the passage of this law there are a reported 14 deaths and several more missing or feared dead. Regardless of your thoughts on sex work; these are men and women. They are humans deserving of our compassion and consideration.
Federal and local law enforcement officials who hunt human traffickers testified before congress saying that this law may in fact make it harder for them to locate traffickers and thus rescue victims. At the same time, creating a civil suit nightmare for the web providers does not stop traffickers. Internet providers, the ACLU and others are concerned the language is so vague it could be used in the future to shut down other types of free speech and cause further erosion of the original intent of Section 230, which incidentally does have a carve out for criminal activity.
There will likely be an increase in torts cases surrounding Section 230 and thus clog an already overloaded court system. Good for those of us in legal, not so much for internet freedoms.
FOSTA/SESTA seem like a big splashy win for all of us fighting trafficking, but it still does not address the reality that trafficking of humans for sex and labor will happen regardless of this law. This law does nothing to address victim’s rights or needs outside of allowing victims the right to sue web providers. This is nothing more than a tool for increased civil suits.
Pushing for Real Change
The federal government needs to allocate more money and agents to the task forces that hunt these vile monsters. We need to stop criminalizing and deporting those who come to our country through traffickers or “coyotes” and let these people assist in apprehending the bad actors. We should push for federal funding of halfway houses, aftercare and education for the victims. We must address poverty in this country and stop pretending this is not a function of poverty and racism. We must acknowledge they need more than platitudes to heal and escape the world they were in. Some excellent victim’s rights laws have been passed in many states. We must work to further those on a national level.
As we have shown, there is a distinction between trafficked victims and those who choose sex work. Pretending these two situations fall into the same category serves only to appease a puritanical belief system that sex work is bad and does little to nothing to help save trafficking victims.
We do not believe the FOSTA/SESTA act should be abolished, rather we would hope that it’s amended to include more specificity and focus on traffickers. Perhaps there are ways to provide culpability while also protecting our freedoms and those of sex workers and people enjoying alternative life styles.
What can you do to help? Contact Congress and tell them that this act can affect your freedom of speech and our online communities.
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