Agenda: Digital self-defense for sex workers

During the first part of this activity I will present the 2 guides on digital security for sex workers I have created for U.S.-based pro dommes and for German sex workers.

Following this presentation we can have a group discussion on how to create similar guides for other legal systems and in other languages, and also include a Q&A on digital security for sex workers who want to secure their online work presence.

We could also organize a separate workshop only for sex workers, if there’s a request for it.

Language: English

Find the guides in:


> Hacking//Hustling

Hacking//Hustling is a collective of sex workers, survivors, and accomplices working at the intersection of tech and social justice to interrupt violence facilitated by technology.

Hacking//Hustling works to abolish carceral technologies and build the capacity of sex workers and survivors to create new technologies that increase safety. Their work includes harm reduction models such as community-based research, mutual aid, organizing, art, and any/all tools sex workers and survivors develop to mitigate state, workplace, and interpersonal violence and thrive.

>> ​​Dis/Organizing: How We Build Collectives Beyond Institutions
a non-comprehensive community toolkit and report by Rachel Kuo & Lorelei Lee

>> What is FOSTA/SESTA?

In the spring of 2018, Congress passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), which made changes to three federal statutory schemes: the Communications Decency Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and the Mann Act. Congressmembers claimed FOSTA would fix loopholes in those statutory schemes through which they believed websites such as had avoided liability for sex trafficking. More than two years after its passage, only one prosecution has been brought under the new criminal provision, and FOSTA’s 230 exemptions have received very limited use. These provisions have, however, had widespread effects on internet companies.

Sex Work and Labor Trafficking
We begin from this premise: under capitalism, all labor is vulnerable to hyper-exploitation. The risk of exploitation is increased in criminalized economies that lack labor protections, such as sex work. Many individuals who have traded sex live at the intersection of marginalized identities and may have limited access to other sources of income or employment due to stigma, discrimination, and lack of social support (White Hughto, Reisner, and Pachankis 2015). In this way, sex workers face a similar risk of exploitation, as do undocumented laborers who perform domestic and agricultural work.

A. Part I: The Communications Decency Act § 230
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, provides immunity from civil and state-level criminal liability for websites acting as publishers of content developed entirely by third parties. Section 230 was passed in part to incentivize website owners to moderate such content without exposing themselves to liability. Toward that purpose, § 230 provides immunity such that site owners cannot be held liable for the contents of speech on their platforms. Section 230 has thus shaped the internet as we know it, allowing for a balance between wide public access to internet platforms and website owners’ moderation of those platforms.

In congressional hearings on FOSTA, lawmakers emphasized the utility of the Act to state and local law enforcement, saying that FOSTA would provide new tools that could be used to fight sex trafficking at the state level.However, it is not clear that the removal of § 230 immunity for a small set of state-level trafficking and prostitution charges will bring the promised changes.One study suggests that impediments to state and local enforcement of sex trafficking laws are largely unrelated to § 230, and a report from Villanova Law School says that FOSTA will not be of use to state-level law enforcement unless state-level anti-trafficking laws are amended. Finally, the way that internet companies have responded to the law suggests the effects of FOSTA may in fact inhibit enforcement of state-level anti-trafficking laws. Website owners responded to FOSTA’s limitation of § 230 immunity by taking down sites on which sex workers previously advertised and screened clients. Such sites were previously also used by law enforcement to identify and recover trafficking victims, and police have noted that their jobs are more difficult without those sites.


Liara Roux

Incomplete List of Legal Discrimination Against Sex Workers