For many queer sex workers, that wave started when Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) in March and President Trump signed them into law. These bills, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Sen. Portman, Rob (R-OH) respectively, claimed to aid sex trafficking victims by holding websites criminally liable for content uploaded by their users. Long before these laws were passed though, sex workers and advocates spoke out against them, arguing that their terms were vague and overreaching and would potentially decimate the digital platforms that have specifically provided a space for workers to meet, vet clients, and engage in consensual business in an online environment far safer than working on the street.”[…] “In October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to defend free speech and user privacy, reported that in recent years “policy restrictions on ‘adult’ content have an outsized impact on LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities.” Over the past few months alone Recon, a fetish dating site for gay men, saw their Youtube temporarily suspended and reinstated only after a Twitter backlash and negative press coverage (this has happened more than once); Naked Boys Reading saw their Facebook page temporarily banned, a decision that was reversed after the organizers accused Facebook of “queer erasure; and many queer YouTubers like Amp Somers of Watts the Safeword, have seen their content flagged and their exposure limited in YouTube’s algorithm.
“When queer youth can’t access sex education and find representation in what they’re being taught, they feel they don’t belong,” Somers told OUT. Watts the Safeword creates lighthearted, non-explicit sex education videos about kink and BDSM. “They feel they aren’t entitled to proper safe forms of sex and will be forced to turn to less trustworthy means of learning about sex.”In October, Facebook was revealed to be blocking many LGBTQ+ ads as part of its new advertising policy. The company told the Washington Post that many of these blockings were in error, but such errors show problems with algorithms that disproportionately flag queer content. Facebook’s LGBTQ+ record is hardly spotless — queer artists, performers and the trans community have battled its “real name” policy for years.” […] “Eric Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, the national trade association for the adult industries, believes the loss of online communities is the most devastating blow.
“Many people in straight, heteronormative communities don’t understand what the big deal is, because their lives and cultures are represented everywhere,” Leue said. “For those in queer, or niche, or fetish communities, Tumblr was one of the few accessible spaces to build communities and share content.”
Leue added that large tech companies need to understand that nuance and human regulation are needed, not outright banning and algorithms that flag content with a wide brush. “Apple’s own content restriction filters block not just porn but sex education and queer resources. Most of America might not notice the absence, but for a closeted queer kid, it’s devastating.””