June 2nd is recognized around the world as the chosen date of countless direct actions and protests in support of the sex workers' rights movement. Since its inception nearly 45 years ago, International Whores Day reclaims a sometimes derogatory word to set the tone for a day of unrest and political action. June also marks International LGBTQ+ Pride month, and this is the first in a series of blog posts that aims to highlight different facets within the broader LGBTQ+ community.
In 2018, the backdrop for many International Whores Day actions were to raise awareness around SESTA/FOSTA, a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and then was rushed through votes in both houses of Congress. Sex work advocacy organizations warned how dangerous that bill would be in undermining 47 U.S.C. § 230, originally enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act, and thus silencing online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. It ultimately passed, and unfortunately the grim predictions those advocacy organizations laid out were proven right.
This year, many of the same communities are striking a similar pitch with raising awareness around another proposed bill that's aimed to weaken Section 230: EARN IT, which we've previously written about.
What Sex Worker Rights Activists Are Saying About EARN IT:
The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) is a national network of social justice organizations that dedicate their efforts to advocating for the human rights of sex workers. The LA chapter has been raising awareness in their community to how EARN IT could threaten access to encrypted communications, a tool that many in the sex industry rely on for harm reduction. This warning was also taken up by popular secure messaging app Signal, which raised concern that if EARN IT were to pass, it could bring the end of their software in American markets.
Hacking//Hustling is a collective of sex work activists and data analysts that originally formed in response to SESTA/FOSTA. They've hosted community teach-ins, digital harm reduction workshops, and direct action protests to raise awareness about this threatening legislation. Founder of Hacking//Hustling, Danielle Blunt says “Denying access to these technologies should be understood as a form of structural violence.”
Decriminalize Sex Work, an organization whose tag line is "End Human Trafficking, Promote Health and Safety", warns that this bill would once again be a means to more easily facilitate the arrest of sex workers. They describe that if it passed, it would further endanger already marginalized communities without any meaningful effect toward ending human trafficking.
Reaching a broader audience
Section 230 is at the crux of protecting freedom of expression online, so we keep a close eye on it at EFF. This year has made it painfully clear that many more people are relying on their ability to safely exist online. Upholding Section 230 protections will continue to give marginalized communities the resources they need to practice communal self care and promote harm reduction.