Law at the heart of Adult Industry Censorship Online
Continuing on from Sex Sells, But Not Online we are going to go deeper today into the laws affecting these changes. The crackdown on nudity guidelines has been more frequent since the passing of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act (SESTA). Both legislations are designed to combat online sex trafficking, but hold platforms liable for content hosted on them. While platforms claim the crackdowns are not in regards to this legislation the evidence outweighs the defence.
Since FOSTA/SESTA last year, companies like Facebook, Craigslist, Instagram and more have begun specifically targeting sexual speech and behaviour as “soliciting prostitution” Archaic language for archaic legislation. Sex workers and educators are being actively barred from the internet in an attempt to limit their freedom of speech as well as their opportunity for safe and secure work. In an attempt to draw attention to the unfair censorship, the Adult Performers Actors Guild wrote a letter to Instagram’s parent company Facebook on April 22.
Beyond Instagram’s, no nudity policies, their policy around “solicitation” leaves even more room for subjective interpretation. As organisations become fearful of making the “wrong” content available to the “wrong” audience, they remove it entirely, demote it or remove it from the algorithm so there is no chance for organic social reach. All of these work in conjunction to leave adult industry workers out of pocket and out of sight.
As websites are able to be held legally responsible if solicitation happens on their site they become hypersensitive to sex work. Following the FOSTA/SESTA legislation, craigslist shut down personal ads, Reddit closed adult-orientated subreddits, tumblr removed all porn-related content, twitter “shadow-bans” sex content making it harder for sex workers to communicate with large audiences and devoted followers. Adult dating sites like Cityvibe shut down entirely and of course, Instagram and Facebook increased their moderation and “enforcement” of community policies. This all puts sex workers at risk as avenues for online advertising and client screening become unavailable and many are forced to return to unsafe forms of sex work such as street-based work.
As we have said before in the article Sex Censorship Online: Artists, advocates and educators affected, celebrities are not as affected by these legislations are sex workers, advocates and educators. While Kim Kardashian can post pretty much nude, Sex workers are banned for showing her pedicure. Social media giants say they're not targeting the whole industry, rather enforcing guidelines and following reports from the public. However, when adult industry workers advocates, educators and get banned regardless of how closely the rules are followed, it leaves you wondering who is enforcing what rules???
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