This morning, President Donald Trump signed new legislation to further marginalize sex workers.
Motherboard reports the bill—a combination of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act—makes websites liable for what users say and do, especially when it comes to sex work.
Although the bill isn't officially enacted yet, websites and the government are already tacking action. Since the bill was passed by Congress in March, sites including Craigslist have shut down their personals sections. Additionally, on Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, one of the most accessible platforms for sex workers, shortly before it was shut down by the FBI.
The Guardian reports many sex workers are terrified, since this new legislation will benefit traffickers by pushing the industry underground yet again.
We need nuanced conversations about consensual sex work. Sex work is not equivalent to trafficking. The lack of these conversations is part of what led all but 2 senators from voting no to #FOSTA, which will lead to further marginalization of sex workers. #sexworkiswork #noswerfs https://t.co/BtFT4LAQzt— Tisha Delphi (@aveganstripper) April 11, 2018
Do you think in 50 yrs our descendants will tell their friends stories about those of us who refuse to retire due to #FOSTA/#SESTA the way people talk about bootleggers during prohibition? Will we be the badass rebels from that ridiculous, puritanical period in history?— NY Dominatrix (@ElenaDeLuca) April 7, 2018
The bill's language confuses sex work with trafficking, but know the difference moving forward: sex workers consent to their services, while those who are trafficked do not.
While this directly and negatively impacts sex workers who use these websites professionally, advocacy groups have also emphasized that the legislation violates free speech by policing sexual speech online.