Read the full article by Kitty Stryker at Broadly.Vice.com

Sex workers have explained the dangers of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) for months now, warning that the bills claiming to prevent trafficking would actually censor trafficking victims and make it significantly harder for sex workers to work safely.

Despite this, Senate overwhelmingly passed SESTA/FOSTA, and the two bills are currently awaiting signing from the President. In their wake, multiple sex work forums shuttered, sex workers reported that their Google Drive files were mysteriously locked or disappeared, and Reddit shut down multiple groups that discussed the industry. But it wasn’t just sex workers who were impacted by SESTA/FOSTA; Microsoft warned customers that using what the company deems as offensive language on Skype, email, or even in Word documents could be an account-closing offense. And Craigslist—the popular site which helped cause a drop in female homicide rates by launching its erotic services platform—ceased to host personal ads of any kind. Only then did the public begin to realize that FOSTA/SESTA’s measures to “protect” contained broader implications of censorship.

While these concerns are certainly valid, it’s vital not to lose sight of those SESTA/FOSTA will hurt most: sex workers. Their main sources of income and their very livelihoods are being threatened (even cam shows, a legal form of sex work, are being curtailed) and abusive clients are even celebrating the desperation they see among sex workers, excitedly discussing how SESTA/FOSTA will mean that sex workers can be coerced into saying yes more often and lower their rates.

Sex workers tell Broadly that the government’s decision has them scared for their lives—and their concerns are not hyperbole. Online platforms are important spaces for sex workers to share resources with each other, including safety tips and “bad date lists,” which are used to call out clients who’ve victimized workers in the past. Without such sources, a sex worker may struggle to expand their pool of safe clients and leave themselves vulnerable to abuse.