Reposted from ESPLERP.org
Sex Workers Say Draft Bill Amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act Does Nothing to Catch Sex Traffickers; But Will Make Social Media Platforms Liable and Sex Workers Less Safe
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A sex worker activist group, the Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP), today condemned a draft bill circulating Congress which undercuts Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) in the name of preventing sex trafficking.
This is the latest round in a campaign of unconstitutional government bullying aimed at sites like MyRedbook.com, Rentboy.com and Backpage (who shuttered their adult sections in January). This bill does absolutely nothing to prevent sex trafficking. But it does make sex workers far less safe by forcing them off online advertising sites, and onto the streets or into situations where they are more vulnerable.
Section 230 of the CDA protects web publishers – such as Facebook and Twitter to The New York Times – from being liable for third party content. The draft bill would create an exception to Section 230 for sex-trafficking offenses involving minors, and allows prosecutors to go after a website that unwittingly hosted content posted by anyone involved in the sex trafficking of minors, and would also allow any underage person who was paid for sex to sue a website even though they were indirectly involved.
This is just the latest attempt to shut down online sex work advertising,” said Maxine Doogan, President of ESPLERP. “It will not stop sex work. All it does is make sex workers less safe and vulnerable to violence and extortion. For example, we know a 19 year old sex worker who had a safe business advertising on Backpage, but when that closed she experienced a dramatic drop in income and found herself vulnerable to a client/boyfriend, who is now feeding her Xanax and taking a cut of her fees. In effect, the governmental campaign against Backpage forced her into the arms of an exploiter.”
“This bill will have a chilling effect on speech and will hurt so many parts of the digital economy,” said Claire Alwyne of ESPLERP. “It will be a costly nightmare for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to monitor third party content to make sure there are coded posts for trafficking – and if they miss one instance they could be charged by prosecutors or sued by victims. The social media platforms have kept low profiles so far – but they need to stand up and tell Congress to drop this bill.”
Care2 have started a petition asking California House Representative Pelosi, and Senators Harris and Feinstein to oppose the draft bill – https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/174/454/856/
Underpinning all of this is the criminalization of prostitution. ESPLERP has mounted a ground breaking lawsuit, ESPLERP v Gascon, which challenges California’s anti-prostitution law 647(b) as unconstitutional. The ESPLERP case is now being appealed in the Ninth Circuit, where thirty six civil rights and LGBT organisations have filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs supporting ESPLERP’s position. ESPLERP’s court case is mostly funded by individuals making small contributions, but our opponents (the State of California and various District Attorneys) have very deep pockets – essentially using our taxpayer dollars to deny us our rights. Contributions to support the court case can be submitted through our crowd fundraiser – www.litigatetoemancipate.com.
The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) is a diverse community-based coalition advancing sexual privacy rights through litigation, education, and research.