With his signature on a new law cracking down on sex work, Donald Trump may have helped stoke the growth of one of the hottest new alternative social networks.
As the controversial bill, which makes tech platforms liable for online speech about sex work, became law Wednesday morning, a new Twitter alternative that sprung to life two weeks ago had grown to more than 28,000 users.
Switter is part of Mastodon, which bills itself as a decentralized social networking platformthat gathers less personal information about users than mainstream networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Rather than a single corporation owning all the data its network gathers, Mastodon is made up of distributed social networks, or “instances,” each with its own server.
Assembly Four, an Australian social impact startup that builds tech solutions for sex workers, created the Switter instance, where clients and providers can network publicly, chat privately, and post and respond to ads.
On Wednesday morning, President Trump signed H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which allows victims of sex trafficking to sue companies for allowing content that enables sex trafficking to stay online. (A previous version was called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, and the bill is sometimes referred to as SESTA.)
The bill provides exceptions to preexisting laws that protect companies from the legal consequences of what people post on their platforms.