On March 21, 2018 the United States Senate passed House Resolution 1865, better known as FOSTA. It wass claimed that this law is designed to help stop human/sex trafficking in the US, aka, slavery. The targets of this legislation are websites that may be used by human traffickers to promote or sell their sex slaves. But it does not stop at simply attacking suspected human traffickers, it targets any website being utilized by people involved in prostitution, including those who are NOT victims of human trafficking.
At the time I am writing this, FOSTA has been presented to President Trump for signature, but has not been signed. It is not an actual law, yet. But this has not stopped this legislation from causing chaos within the adult community that engages in consensual, transactional sexual acts. Numerous websites have shut down in part or in whole, likely on the advice of their respective legal counsel. So what does this mean? Is this the end of prostitution and human trafficking in America?
No. That would be a ridiculous hope on the part of puritanical moralists.
So far, this law has done absolutely NOTHING to free any sex slaves. It has not led to the arrests of a single human trafficker. And it likely won’t. Why not? Because those involved in the sex slave market are now off of these websites. They can no longer be located through these sites. They are now back underground. The reality is that this law will make it MORE difficult for law enforcement to locate and prosecute actual human traffickers and it will be harder to locate and liberate the true victims of this crime.
What has this law done? It has made life more dangerous for professional adult sex workers. A regional website known as “NightShift” was one of the casualties of this legislation. That site was not only a place where sex workers could advertise, but also network with each other and with clients. It was a safe place for the exchange of information, especially information related to the safety of prospective clients. It was also a place where men could exchange information on the safety of these women. They could report on the ones who would rob clients, often violently with the aid of pimps. There was open and honest discussion of STD’s and unsafe sexual practices. It was a place that make sex work safer.
Moralists would likely point out that such websites help to facilitate prostitution. That they promote an, admittedly, illegal activity. That is true. But the internet did not create prostitution. There is a reason it is called “the world’s oldest profession”. Some might claim that the internet has grown the prostitution industry, but that is impossible to determine. But it is very clear that the internet has helped to make sex work safer in America. It has allowed sex workers the opportunity to be independent of the negative world of pimps and their control. Now this safety net is eroding and may soon be gone. This could, in reality, lead to MORE human trafficking, not less.
This bill was presented to Trump on April 3rd. To my knowledge it has not been signed, though it seems destined to become law. The future looks more chaotic and confusing of those in the sex community. How will this law actually be used is an unanswered question. Will it be challenged in court? And to what end? Only the future knows.