Back in April, around the time most of the US was going “Funk… Did I finish my taxes??” The president signed a bill into law that was designed to help stop sex trafficking and exploitation on the internet. Depending on where you’ve been spending time online you may have not noticed, you may have been horrified, or you may have been marginally hopeful about the outcome of the bill, set to take effect January 2019.
Whether the bill will do anything substantive to alter the exploitation of marginalized people through sex trafficking remains to be seen… Tho even the most hyperbolic of supporters seem to label it “a small step” and most of the rest of us think it’s about an effective as the Black label on the back of a candy colored box of cigarettes… At best.
What is certain is the impact that FOSTA/SESTA is having on the landscape of the internet.
For the longest time there’s been an exemption in place in our laws (section 230) saying that an internet service company that allows people to post things online is not legally responsible for what they do. They have to comply with legal requests for information and respond to take down notices when issued… But if someone is posting drugs for sale, sex for sale, promoting violence against people, etc… It’s not the company’s fault.
FOSTA/SESTA changes that in one critical way. Nothing illegal by an individual is the company’s fault now EXCEPT… prostitution.
What this has caused is companies going “ok… But how will we know??! We can’t possibly have people reading every single post and making a call… We need a bot to do that.”
Enter the 21st century’s most widespread and pernicious censoring ever.
Craigslist? The personals section died fast and quiet. (ish) Want to meet someone cute? Maybe just find out where the swingers meet? How about if it’s Friday and you’re 420 ok and just plain ‘DTF?’ … Well how does CL know you don’t intend to say “oh, btw baby, $50 will take you all the way?” … They don’t. So they took the approach of saying “nope. Can’t risk it.”
Recently Tumblr made the news by saying that as of the 17th, no more adult content allowed. Partly because apparently there was some child abuse content that made it on… But now they’re banning all image content of sex, genitals, and everyone’s favorite sexist bs “female presenting nipples” from posts. Also numerous accounts of fan fiction and more have been flagged for their language.
Facebook released their new terms of service with highly vague and restrictive language about content (including it appears using ‘DTF’ as it happens… that’s Down To Fuck if you’re playing the home game and don’t have a translator) and may render all conversation on Facebook pretty limited. Will your messenger conversations be safe? Jury is out, but me? I wouldn’t take it for granted.
This week YouTube joined the list, shutting down a number of channels dedicated to things like rope bondage and kinky crafting. No warning, just closing the gates.
Let me put this into the simplest terms as I see it:
Economic pressure is the ultimate expression of repression and power in the 21st century.
It’s how the oligarchs use business to put pressure on the political system, and how the political system then (full of the oligarchy approved representatives) use service business to put pressure on you and me.
Want to alter the tax and environmental laws to favor your business? Use the pressure of money and business influence to tip lawmakers to your whim. Want to ensure that you control the feed of advertising, popup news, and content that the people see? Put political pressure on your businesses to alter their content to suit your whim.
I’m begging you all. Stand up, say something, push back. DON’T ACCEPT WHAT’S FED TO YOU BECAUSE IT’S EASY.
Why does it matter if a little sex and language gets stripped out of Tumblr and Facebook? I mean there’s always porntube and xhamster and a thousand and one fetish and porn sites, right?
It matters because when we think of sex as something confined to it’s lane, to the fringes, to the dark web and the shameful sites and the corners in the dark… we lose control of OUR NARRATIVE. Sex positivity, body acceptance, normalization of gender non-binarity and sexual expression and orientation and more are vital to the evolution and maturation of our society. As soon as we once again shame, ridicule, criminalize and marginalize expression and ownership of sex and body and identity, we make the dominant (patriarchal) narrative the default.
And don’t even get me fucking started on ‘female presenting nipples’ … just… we’ll be here all year.
So write letters. Vote with your wallet and your traffic. Agitate, make noise. Write your stories and own your body, your mind, your space, and your narrative. If we are driven to the fringe sites, let’s make them mainstream. If we’re shouted down, let’s paint murals. If we are flooded with ads for the ‘normal’ and the ‘acceptable’ let’s deride those ads as the propaganda and disinformation they are.
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep listening and KEEP SHARING YOUR STORY.
For the Evolution.
Love, bisous, and sexytimes…