Sex Workers Warn EARN IT Act Poses Threat of Surveillance, Arrest

LOS ANGELES—A new bipartisan bill in the Senate has drawn warnings from sex worker advocacy groups. Following the 2018 passage of the “sex trafficking” bill FOSTA/SESTA, this new legislation could put sex workers in even greater danger, the activist groups say.  In March, AVN reported on the new EARN IT Act, backed by both Democrats and Republicans, which would strip away protections for online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Currently, Section 230 shields platforms and publishers from legal liability for content posted by third parties. But FOSTA/SESTA created a new exception, holding platforms — such as Facebook, Twitter, and advertising outlets like Craigslist — liable if the third-party content promoted “sex trafficking.” But the definition of “sex trafficking” in the bill was so vague that it effectively suppressed discussion of sex at all, and forced sex workers to take their business offline.  The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act takes the attack on Section 230 a step further, requiring platforms to prove that they follow “best practices related to identifying and reporting online child sexual exploitation.” If they do so, they can “earn” the protections currently afforded to them automatically under Section 230.  Section 230 is considered the foundation of online communications, because it frees platforms from the insurmountable task of policing every item of content that appears on their outlets. Sex worker groups say that EARN IT would be another step toward eliminating that freedom — and that would put sex workers in danger. “Like SESTA, this bill could facilitate the conviction of sex workers for crimes unrelated to human trafficking. Surveillance and red flags would not be limited to sexual content that seems violent or abusive,” wrote the organization Decriminalize Sex Work on its site. “This bill could facilitate the conviction of sex workers for crimes unrelated to human trafficking. Surveillance and red flags would not be limited to sexual content that seems violent or abusive.” The group added that, as with FOSTA/SESTA, the new bill could force sex workers to give up the safety protections and independence offered by conducting their business online — which Hacking//Hustling founder Danielle Blount called “a form of structural violence,” as quoted in a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This year has made it painfully clear that many more people are relying on their ability to safely exist online,” EFF’s Daly Barnett wrote. “Upholding Section 230 protections will continue to give marginalized communities the resources they need to practice communal self care and promote harm reduction.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Josh Hawley on Missouri, along with Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and California’s Dianne Feinstein. Photo by Soumil Kumar / Pexels 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: Sex Workers Warn EARN IT Act Poses Threat of Surveillance, Arrest | AVN

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