24 hours after the United States Congress passed a landmark piece of legislation to combat online sex trafficking, with near-unanimous bipartisan support, the most significant legislative action in decades, major prostitution websites are going dark. They are doing this on their own!
Of importance to me, includes a drastic change in policy by Reddit. Reddit is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. Reddit has been a primary place where I conduct research as we determine targets for the annual Dirty Dozen List. Pornography users and sex buyers congregate there to share tips and trends, which is how I first found out just how engrossed in the sex industry many mainstream companies are.
It is where I first discovered Amazon is selling dozens of childlike sex dolls and their Web Services are a go-to place to host amateur pornography websites.
Discussion threads on Reddit are also how I found out that Roku, a leading media streaming company similar to AppleTV, hosts hundreds of private and hidden pornography channels.
It is on Reddit where I first realized just how prominent and interconnected pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking are on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. The thread of exploitation seamlessly crosses platforms as women and children are advertised and money is exchanged through features like Snapchat.
I went to Reddit last night to get a feel for what the sex buyers and porn users were saying about the passage of FOSTA-SESTA expecting to see lots of complaints. But, to my surprise, I was met with this screen saying that one of the prominent threads has now been BANNED!
In addition to the closing of many of these threads, Reddit completely changed their policy just hours after the vote to include no more “Paid services involving physical sexual contact.”
Surprised by this quick voluntary change by a website that became a discussion forum for sex buyers, but which NCOSE would not argue knowingly facilitated sexual exploitation, we went to check the most mainstream website engaged in prostitution and sex trafficking, craigslist. The thousands of ads for sex were still up.
I drove home from the office.
When I got home, my husband was actually perusing craigslist for a used office chair. craigslist is used by many Americans on a daily basis, most of them not even realizing that it facilitates the sale of thousands of people for sex each day. Upset that for years, after immense public and legal pressure, craigslist has been able to skirt justice and stay in the business of prostitution, I grumbled to my husband that soon they will be legally forced to remove these! I thought we would just have to wait for the bill to be signed and then the government to bring an actual case.
Nope. We don’t have to wait! Because when I checked one more time last night, craigslist had completely blocked the sections of their classifieds known for selling sex.
Four other prominent websites for prostitution ads have also gone dark!
These prominent mainstream websites recognized their involvement with the sex industry and without actual legal action they are changing their ways! The law is powerful.
This is by far the biggest victory for human dignity I’ve witnessed in my 8 years of advocating for policy changes. The impacts are already far-reaching!
As background on the law passed on Tuesday:
The legislative package includes H.R. 1865 the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, and an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters which incorporated the vital reforms contained in S. 1693 the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), sponsored by Senators Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal. It amends the Communications Decency Act to help fight online sex trafficking by restoring victims’ civil right of action and empowering state Attorneys General to prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking. It also amends the Mann Act to allow prosecution of websites that promote prostitution.