When I use my writing platform to discuss my sex work history and advocate for people who are currently in the sex trades, one of the occupational hazards I resent the most is the demand that I prove my legitimacy by reliving past traumas. Another is the unending task of learning the ins and outs of misleadingly labeled federal legislation that would be disastrous for sex workers. But learn it, I do, and you should too as a horrific bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA), inches closer to a Senate vote.
SESTA comes on the heels of the House’s passage last week of a similar bill, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017(FOSTA), which would make websites criminally liable for hosting content linked to trafficking sex. SESTA would make sites liable if they “knowingly assist, support, or facilitate sex trafficking.” The problem is that these bills target websites that are widely and inaccurately believed to be hubs of trafficking activity when it is precisely those websites that enable people in the sex trades to do their work safely and independently, at the same time as they make it easier for authorities to find and investigate possible trafficking cases.
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