You recently voted for H.R. 1865 “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.”
1. This bill will make it more difficult to find and help victims of sex trafficking.
Freedom Network USA (a national network of frontline organizations working to reduce trafficking) say that eroding Section 230 would compromise the very tools that are most useful for finding and stopping traffickers:
“There are many cases of victims being identified online—and little doubt that without this platform, they would have not been identified. Internet sites provide a digital footprint that law enforcement can use to investigate trafficking into the sex trade, and to locate trafficking victims. When websites are shut down, the sex trade is pushed underground and sex trafficking victims are forced into even more dangerous circumstances.”
Anti-trafficking advocate (and herself a trafficking survivor) Kristen DiAngelo points out that losing those online spaces doesn’t just thwart law enforcement; it also exposes trafficking victims to the threat of more violence:
“SESTA would do nothing to decrease sex trafficking; in fact, it would have the opposite effect. […] When trafficking victims are pushed off of online platforms and onto the streets, we become invisible to the outside world as well as to law enforcement, thus putting us in more danger of violence.”
2. This law conflates sex trafficking with consensual sex work.
The majority of sex work is a victimless “crime” between consensual adults. The Sex Worker Outreach Project warns that “There are many Sex Workers who rely on meeting and screening clientele online as a way to stay safe. Without proper ways to establish identity, set service boundaries, and screen people properly, this bill could turn casual meet ups into life or death situations.”
“Sex workers use multiple avenues to communicate, perhaps most importantly, about bad or dangerous clients,” says Mike Stabile, communications director at the Free Speech Coalition, via Motherboard. “Sometimes, these happen in the same sites where they also advertise, sometimes they are separate forums or social networks… If it passes, these websites would simply shutter, or ban all communication related to sex work, since the risk of missing a sign would mean prosecution.”
3. We already have laws against kidnapping, slavery, and forced prostitution. The moral panic this bill panders to is greatly exaggerated. Over the past decades these laws have been ratcheted up to the point that they’re the same level as the laws that leave teens registered as Sex Offenders for the rest of their lives because they took a nude picture of themselves to send to a boy/girlfriend.
There is no evidence that this will prevent the sort of “sex trafficking” that people want it to. It will make life horrendously more difficult for many of society’s most vulnerable and outcast. It is opposed by women’s rights organizations including the International Women’s Health Coalition.
This bill is anti-woman, and anti-human-decency. However it appears you care more about the votes of self-righteous morality crusaders than the health, safety, and very lives of society’s most vulnerable.
4. When it comes to the safety of sex workers and lives of trafficking victims, I am a single-issue voter. Until this bill is repealed or overturned by the courts, I will be voting for the candidate most likely to defeat you in every election, no matter how odious.
[address redacted for the online version]
I’m sending this to both my Senators and my Representative, as they all voted for this bill, which is now on its way to the president.
Sen Michael Bennet – D
Sen Cory Gardner – R
Rep Ed Perlmutter – D
I’ll be printing it, signing it, and sending it in the mail, as physical mail is less ignored than e-mail.