Sex Work After SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)

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Sex Work After SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)
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Sex Work After SESTA/ FOSTA ((Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act/ Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act)
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Surveillance had been a fact of life for sex workers wherever they have faced prohibition. Only two elements, communication and association, can differentiate between commercial and personal sex, criminal enforcement of prostitution laws have necessarily meant targeting the speech and affiliation of perceived sex workers. Enforcement of this nature is facilitated by profiling, institutional bias, and broad overreaching policies that fundamentally violate individual human rights. This has included condoms as evidence, non-consensual medical screenings, and targeted harassment of black transgender women as well as license plate recording projects and stings that focus disrupting immigration or migrant workers. For all of its risks, screening potential clients is safer over email than it is in person during a street based negotiation often in an isolated part of town. SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) comes at a time when compelling research demonstrates that Craigslist resulted in a 17% drop in the female homicide rate. SESTA will also put victims at risk by delaying their identification and recovery by eliminating a digital paper trail. Additionally, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a vital protection for a free internet. Subverting SESTA will create greater economic disparity between sex workers and ultimately empower pimps and agencies over independent providers.
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hello there I think there is no greater pleasure on earth than doing dangerous things with competent people and so I am so honored to be among your ranks thank you so much to all the goons into the conference for having me I know I'm a little bit of an untraditional talk what I have to say may thrill you it may shock you it may even horrify you what I am NOT going to do today is try to provide a case for why sex work is or is not moral instead what I would like to convey is why this warrantless surveillance is not only an erosion of our collective civil liberties but it also presents a clear and lethal danger to those in the sex trade so this is a very chant that's near and dear to my heart when sex worker rights are under attack what do we do get dressed fight back and Who am I I've done a thing or two around the world I have been on the board of directors of the sex workers outreach project USA doing national organizing I have spoken around the world on sex worker rights harm reduction is also a cause that is near and dear to my heart I also do earth work and I am an apprentice death worker so home funerals births I got everything so what is cesta FASTA this is a piece of legislation that was signed into law by Donald Trump on April 11th 2018 it is the stop enabling sex traffickers Act and the fight online sex trafficking Act it kind of converged into one piece of horrible legislation that has had all kinds of effects resulting in 150 at least documented tech actions this has involved Craigslist if any of you been trying to find a date on Craigslist you probably have had some trouble many other websites have also been shut down or censored we're seeing an increased amount of shadow banning or outright removal of sex workers from services so what is this essentially what this legislation did is it eliminated section 230 of the Communications Decency Act this means that websites are now have increased liability for or any third party content that is posted so even if a website doesn't know that someone may be buying or selling sex on their website they are now gonna be in trouble for that this means that there's increased scrutiny on speech online and it's had as I said tremendous effects some of which have also been surprising it was pretty horrifying to see the ripples of people who are getting deleted from Twitter but a group of sex workers decided to create a mastodon instance they called Switzer it was up for a few days and thousands and thousands of thousands of people flocked there in fact it was one of the largest instances of Mastodon it was hosted by cloud fire and CloudFlare has been very vocal about privacy and freedom they've only ever terminated services for one client and that was the daily stormer they shut down Twitter they shut us down and that is quite a disappointment because what was sweater but essentially a group of women trans women and male workers who were trying to save their own lives so to be equated with something like the daily stormer was quite a slap in the face especially from people who have been such like Crusaders and vocal outspoken people about why we need spaces like this and what influence this is a philosophy known as the Nordic model so up till now we've really had criminalization which is where we say you can't do that it's bad people go after the sex workers they go after the buyers in New Zealand you have a model called decriminalization and decriminalization is when you remove criminal penalties from any buying or selling in fact the United Nations has had a few people who have gone on the record saying if you want to be a sex worker anywhere in the world do it in New Zealand some people have said that the Nordic model is a middle ground because it criminalizes the buying but not the selling of sexual services it is guided by the idea that you can end demand for sex this is actually a little bit difficult sex work has been going on for a very very long time as long as there are haves and there are have-nots negotiations will occur between the two parties and while I agree it's very important to protect people who may be vulnerable to exploitation I think we need to do a little bit more of a careful look at why anyone is so vulnerable to that kind of economic exploitation in the first place and here again here's one of the quotes
from some of the lovely law enforcement officers talking about what they're trying to accomplish they're really hoping that they can end demand and if they can just end this demand nothing bad will ever happen ever again
so we've seen a move from the model of criminalization of the bad girls into the sad girls the victims of trafficking rather than women who have gone astray and this Megan does sound tempting it does sound like something that's going to be better is going to be helpful and
yet it's important to remember that asymmetric enforcement of a law will always infringe on the fundamental rights of the non criminal party there is no way to enforce laws like this without impacting sex workers themselves and in fact laws like this make sex workers more vulnerable we've seen this around the world especially in Sweden where this was I originated there was no research that went into this there was no communication with those in the sex trade about how to implement it or how to enforce it and it drives negotiations into a system where the worker has to protect the buyer it makes it a lot harder to get information to screen essentially drives things further underground and further away from resources it also comes with a lot of baggage because someone who could be profiting from sexual labor can be also a landlord there are people that are being kicked out of their homes if you have two or more sex workers in any given location that is a brothel or a body house that is illegal so you can't work together you can't live somewhere and those who are being accused of being traffickers are often partners they are parents they are children and they are friends and they are not being distinguished from those who have ill intent it's been a very popular thing
outside of Nordic countries this is a map of the continental United States where n demand programs have been implemented I couldn't quite fit the slide quite right but this is happening in Alaska and Hawaii as well and you can see how much it's spread and yet as we
all know if you build a better at trap you will always have a better rat sex workers are really very good at evading any type of law enforcement because their lives and their livelihood depends on it so every time there's ever been something a barrier erected there are sex workers who have figured out how to go around it we do the best we can but sometimes this new legislation makes a lot harder there's been a lot of
surveillance on sex workers it goes back quite quite a grade of time back in the 60s they started doing buyer stings so instead of focusing on the sellers they were looking on getting clients or John's the first internet-based buyer sting was in Everett Washington they began publishing names of people in the newspaper in the 70s the Dear John letter campaigns encouraged neighbors to provide information about who they'd seen license plate numbers and they would send notices to homes that were actually designed to be opened by wives or mothers so if you can't arrest somebody you can always shame them we started seeing surveillance cameras that were put in areas that were known for any type of Commerce and yet by coincidence these were often low-income neighborhoods or neighborhoods of color there is just as much sexual Commerce happening at the ritz-carlton as there is at a motel 6 off a highway but you don't always see the same kinds of surveillance their neighborhood actions targeting John's were a lot of groups and community groups that were teaching people how to do this and since then we have seen license plate readers erected and many other forms of intense surveillance a human rights attorney in San Leandro
where a large neighborhood action was set up had a great quote this turns neighbors against neighbors and it recruits people to become spies for the police it makes us suspicious of each other it makes us create arbitrary ideas for who should be in a neighborhood and who shouldn't and as we'll continue to see these designations are they're arbitrary and they're capricious there's only two things that distinguish commercial sex from recreational sex that is communication and Association unlike other crimes it's hard to actually pinpoint something I don't necessarily agree with the drug laws on our books but either you have drugs on you or you don't or they were planted if you kill somebody we can do forensics to find out a body and how it came to be dead if you steal money there's a trail but again with sex work that's a little bit harder so people are often targeted for the way they are dressed where they are standing and who they're associating with and again this is what makes it so arbitrary we've seen people that have been arrested and searched and condoms that they've had on their person have been used as evidence against them condoms those are legal they're sold everywhere and this is dangerous when you consider HIV and STI and STDs if you're going to be penalized for having protection why would you carry it and the Department of Homeland Security has been increasing a lot of their own types of outreach campaigns I was looking at the Twitter stream and I noticed a lot of people were very upset that their rooms were being searched providers have been following this for a long time some of
their training includes targeting the janitorial staff the hospitality staff in general and you'll note on the left-hand side point to presence of multiple computers cell phones pagers credit card swipers and other technology Oh oh and in fact it's even a little bit
more detailed maybe hard to read some of this but they include other very arbitrary things like declining cleaning a strong smell of musk men coming and going drugs and alcohol pornography there's a lot of reasons why you may be enjoying your hotel stay it doesn't mean that you're a human trafficker and again who is going to be targeted more specifically for having or behaving in manner like this another thing that I noticed that really stood out to me is that on all of these Flyers and all of this training that is being provided people are told and encouraged not to approach a suspected victim they are told that the first thing they should do is contact ice immigrations and customs and that was really very curious ice has been very involved in a lot of this and a lot of that is because people do migrate to do sexual labour it's not always going to be as profitable to work in your own home country sometimes you travel to work and that is the case for many people in the sex trade they're not necessarily being forced against their will they're just following the money they're doing the best they can and we have these raids they're called rescues but there's no Coco there's no teddy bears there's no one there to help you instead it's going to be incarceration or deportation and prostitution is a deportable offense so out of one side of their mouth they're using this terminology of victims and rescue on the other hand there doesn't seem to be anything in place that actually makes this a rescue there's only a hundred and fifty beds in the whole United States that are designated for human trafficking victims 150 beds and yet sometimes there are raids that have 150 individuals in any given raid in any given specific location I also found it very curious that there has been a campaign to talk to university students that is the item that you see on the right I don't know very many human traffickers that are like going to exploit someone sexually but they want them to get a good college education but that's what this image seems to imply it says to beware of people who are getting a lot of gifts and male attention and seem to have a handler who won't let them out of their sight I've never seen this on a campus though it may happen and again students are being encouraged to call ice the
national overview of prostitution and sex trafficking demand reduction efforts had a report in 2012 I recommend reading it it's a really horrific document and it outlines that there just simply isn't anything there for those who may be rescued or may actually be a victim while it is necessary and just to assist survivors and expansion of those services is acutely needed the interventions are not designed to prevent or reduce the occurrence of exploitation big mother is watching and she wants to end demand no matter what kind of damage or casualties air may be
some of these stings are also very very brutal in general and pretty much most of them are at some of the raids in the United Kingdom press was called ahead of time and the victims were dragged out into the street without any opportunity to cover themselves they were still in negligee and lingerie that doesn't sound like a rescue effort to me and in one of these cases a lot of law enforcement found that it would be a little expensive to actually pose as an escort you have to rent a room you got to post these ads and they're asking for money and there's this budget they actually found it was a lot easier to find someone who is legitimate he was working in their own room and removed the survivor and install a police decoy so what happens to this survivor was she cooperating she has her phone seized and all of her appointments for the day things that were negotiated in good faith are gonna run afoul and most of
his law enforcement response has really been driven by complaints from people rather than any actual CERN we know that at least 71% are definitely from complaints but it's likely much higher and public shaming this could be billboards posting pictures of buyer's or seller's or having a Dear John campaign will like drop those complaints so officers really like that it makes it very convenient and again no punitive response up to and including the death penalty has ever effectively halted commercial sex at any time in history so we know that it's not actually doing anything to stop this supposed problem it's just a great cover-up or a band-aid and what kind of
things have we lost this is a screen cap from my pink book this was a side message board of my red book which was a california-based message board it was where ads were posted and as you can see this is this is the type of speech that was being halted this is health information these are legal services this isn't necessarily trafficking at all this is sex workers helping sex workers it was also a place where sex workers were able to become more independent in the past a pimp has been necessary because there's so much work that goes into things if you're arrested who's gonna bail you out if you need security who's gonna provide it who knows where you are and what you need so oftentimes sex workers have been employees of people but with the rise of the internet they were able to become a boss and were able to hire out the services they need that could be a driver that could be a lawyer that could be someone who knows how to make paychecks and pay stubs if you need to rent something and so it was incredibly powerful to be able to be in charge rather than to be a worker we also know
in a recent study that the Craigslist erotic services reduce the female homicide rate by seventeen point four percent that's incredible purely by virtue of having a place where people could meet clients and screen them the overall homicide rate dropped we're here at this conference and we all know that it's not necessarily safe to answer an email but it's a lot safer to answer an email than it is to stick your head in a car window so if you'd like to see that I really recommend you read it and in San
Francisco even these are people who were proponents of a Nordic model noted that the average yield of arrests per street-level sting fell by half between 2004 and 2007 that's when Craigslist became popularized so actually the bout of street based traffic dropped it dropped considerably because even though we're talking about using computer and digital services smartphones became much more available to people and most providers were able to post ads and work on the street or just move indoors entirely in fact on the street in general there were oftentimes people who will have their ad posted they'll have a room waiting and if they're not getting any business maybe they'll go downstairs but pretty much everybody was using the Internet and this is a dangerous job being a sex worker is the most dangerous job in America so when we talk about this reduction in numbers it's a very very large and thing it's no small feat women represent 22% of all homicide victims but 70% of serial killer victims this is why December 17th the International Date and violence against sex workers was started the Green River Killer made it very clear who he was targeting and why sex workers are 18 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than other women and 50% of sex worker homicides will go unsolved this is a community that doesn't have any justice and the one tool that they had to protect themselves was ripped out from underneath them I have some of my sources up here I think if you'd like to check some of them which I hope you will and I hope you will always scrutinize the statistics that you hear because so many of them have been based in falsehoods the average age of entry into the sex trade is not 12 years old it's closer to 19 it is safer to have these message boards not more dangerous and even though I'm saying some pretty harsh stuff I'm a sex worker so you know I believe in Happy Endings I've seen us have success when people stand up with us and fight back I have seen bad laws in California struck down I have seen change made so I believe that the more people know and the more people are willing to speak up to their politicians and their law enforcement communities that this can be reversed and we can have an internet that is safe for sex workers where the civil liberties of all of ours are protected and we can all have our happy ending thank you very much [Applause] [Music]