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What is FOSTA-SESTA: Factors and Impacts on Sex Workers and Sexual Wellness Professionals

Author :- Tickle.Life Editorial Team March 30, 2022, 9:40 a.m.
What is FOSTA-SESTA: Factors and Impacts on Sex Workers and Sexual Wellness Professionals

What is FOSTA/SESTA?

Passed by the US Senate in 2018, FOSTA or SESTA are set of rules focusing on sex trafficking both online and offline. FOSTA is the abbreviation for Fight Online Trafficking Act, and SESTA means Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking. With FOSTA, there came changes to three federal statutory schemes as a way to overcome their loopholes. The schemes are:

  1. The Communications Decency Act
  2. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and
  3. The Mann Act

What are the Factors that FOSTA-SESTA Focuses on?

The US government controls platforms offering prostitution and offering sex trafficking via FOSTA-SESTA. One of the reasons why the US Senate passed FOSTA-SESTA is due to the push received from celebrities and other high-end lawyers. According to them, without a regulatory framework like FOSTA-SESTA, platforms like Backpage.com have the power to perform sexual trafficking without any hindrances. 

But, consensual sex workers consider Backpage as a medium that helps in lowering the chances of sex trafficking. They find it helpful in improving their control over their profession.

Besides, FOSTA-SESTA can hold platforms with advertisements related to online prostitution liable under the law. The removal of these advertisements has reduced the discoverability of sex trafficking victims. 

Even though the authorities present FOSTA-SESTA as a framework to reduce sex trafficking scenarios, this isn’t always the case. There are numerous situations where social media platforms and search engines have been pressurized to censor sexual content. But, the irony is that they end up monitoring and removing sexual health information that can be beneficial for spreading sex education. Another issue caused by FOSTA-SESTA is that these laws limit freedom of speech and expression on the Internet.

As of now, there is a lawsuit in place against FOSTA-SESTA that challenges the frameworks laid down by these laws. You can read more about it here.

How Does FOSTA-SESTA Impact Sexual Workers and Wellness Professionals?

Now, let's examine the different ways by which FOSTA-SESTA impacts sex workers and wellness professionals.

Fails to Punish Traffickers

Even though the legal framework states that human trafficking is a heinous crime, it often fails to punish the right people.

Instead, the authorities end up curtailing the freedom of speech of sexual wellness professionals, trafficking victims, consensual sex workers, etc.,

Increase in Sex Trafficking

The exploitation of these laws has changed the power balance between pimps and sex workers. As per Pike Long, Deputy Director of St. James Infirmary, a peer-based clinic for sex workers, the disappearance of sex workers' sites has led to the re-empowerment of pimps and other sexual exploiters. Due to this, there has been an increase in sex trafficking in the US.

The Rise in Risk Involved in Sexual Work

The implementation of FOSTA-SESTA has led to an increase in the number of street-based sex workers. When a sex worker seeks clients from the streets, it has reduced the screening procedures that were in place earlier. Due to this, it has caused an increase in the risk faced by sex workers. 

Earlier, with Backpage, it was easier for sex workers to find clients by simply swiping right as on a dating app. Here, the risk rate was also much lower. 

Similarly, sex workers were able to gain an understanding of their clients from harm reduction tools like Verify Him. The references obtained from these tools helped them to decide whether they should choose a client or not.

Image of a typewriter showing freedom of speech                                    

Revoking Freedom of Speech

As part of the FOSTA-SESTA, the authorities removed Section 230, which has increased the restriction on freedom of speech. It has affected consensual sex workers and their safety immensely. 

Here, the authorities held the Internet Service Providers(ISPs) responsible for the sex works on the web. Due to this, most ISPs, fearing prosecution, removes the posting capabilities of people from the industry. The concerns regarding the ISPs have also created challenges in identifying the victims and helping them.

Since the new legal framework has affected the freedom of speech, the authorities have started to criminalize any form of sexual expression. Due to the fear of prosecution, many sex-based platforms have adopted a conservative mode of expression. 

Issues with Payment

Consensual sex workers have seen a decrease in their pay as they have switched to the streets. Besides, payment gateways and apps like PayPal have frozen many accounts owned by sex workers. 

Due to this, they find it challenging to get payment from their clients. Because of this concern, the sex workers have to adopt other payment measures, where they have to pay higher and unreasonable transaction fees.

Curtails Access to Medically Accurate Sex-ed

There is a need to spread medically accurate sex education among teens and adults in the US. But, the FOSTA-SESTA law has led to the censorship of these resources on the Internet. As part of community standards, search engines and social media platforms are censoring sex-based content.

 

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