Below are notes from the organizers of Survivors Against SESTA, a small group of volunteer activists who were advocating fiercely against the passage of two dangerous congressional bills, FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act).
The below notes explain what the bills are, how they effect people in the sex trade, and what is being planned as a response. This is a very scary time for those of us in the sex trade, and we encourage you to reach out to each other, to us, and to review online resources for how to protect yourself in the times ahead. For updates on the bills and cyber security tips, please visit survivorsagainstsesta.org.
Thank you so much for joining us for our community debrief calls. We had 300 call-ins (and we know many of you called in as a group, so the number of people listening in was even higher) and 440+ RSVPs. We are blown away by the response.
We understand there’s a lot of fear and anger in the community right now. Express that, and then hold one another. We encourage you to find each other, reach out, connect with folks you ordinarily might not. More than ever, we need each other to keep ourselves safe.
Please find call notes and next steps below.
If you’d like to get involved and didn’t already send us your email while RSVPing for the community calls, please fill out this form and let us know what interests you. This list will be the basis for our mailing list, so please encourage trusted community and allies to sign up as well. It’s the best way to stay in touch.
- Disclaimer: These calls are accessible to everyone, so we are cognizant of the potential for LE, journalists, etc. to be listening in. The information we share has that in mind. Please understand that we are not ignoring questions. We want to disseminate as accurate information as safely as possible.
- SESTA/FOSTA–what happened?
- The Bill has passed the Senate and the House, and is on its way to the president’s desk for signature. This mean it is not yet law, and the date it becomes “effective” is not yet clear.
- The changes in the law won’t be to individual sex workers, but will expand liability of platforms (websites/listservs/communication tools which hold content made by others) to face penalties for hosting info that was part of a crime of trafficking. There isn’t any clarity as to what that means – or how websites can stay within the law, so the impact is going to be a lot about a website’s self-censorship. It’s a lot easier to close down ads for the sex trade/info about the sex trade than worry you’re committing a crime and don’t know it.
- Organizing behind the scenes–lobbying/organizational
- 57 organizations signing on to letter of opposition
- Two different webinars for organizations and Hill staffers to hear about the impact of the bill
- HUGE outpouring of calls to offices (that was YOU!)
- The take away from conversations with staffers: They are not hearing about sex worker rights, and want to know more
- We know of people in congress whose votes changed because of our outreach
- If you have a chance to send some thank yous – the National Center for Transgender Equality, National Center for Lesbian Rights, AIDS United and Rep. Barbara Lee’s office were *instrumental* in this work
- three separate Twitter campaigns under hashtags #LetUsSurvive, #SurvivorsAgainstSESTA, and #SurvivorsAgainstFOSTA
- 5 million+ impressions
- 40+ pieces in the media criticizing the bill
- academic letter opposing bill with 330+ sign-ons from academics
- a ton of beautiful art–graphics and zines
- You can see a lot of both the organizational and grassroots organizing documented on our website survivorsagainstsesta.org
- Organizers who have been in the movement 10, 20+ years have commented this is the first time they’ve seen this volume of mass participation in sex workers’ rights activism in the US around a single focus
- We are so heartened and excited by what’s happening while simultaneously recognizing the tremendous fear and damage this bill is causing in our communities. We hope moving forward and building momentum means we’ll connect previously isolated community (whether because you’re physically isolated or because you’re not out) to each other. We hope moving forward means building real, radical political power that centers the voices of WOC, LGBTQ women, migrants, and trafficking survivors.
- What happens next?
- June 1–Lobby Day
- A national day of talking to representatives and staffers in DC and in our home states and cities to share our stories and concerns.
- See this link for more info
- June 2–Direct Action Day
- A national day of taking up public space creatively–demonstrations, protests, theater, letter writing, etc.
- See the attached document for a fantastic reading put together by Red on IWD and its rad (and radical) history.
- Media engagement before, during and after
- media training, documentation of platform/account shutdowns and stories of survival, narrative shaping in the press
- We are working on trainings and fundraising for the above. We would also like to distribute anti-oppression materials for everyone involved in these actions.
- Know-Your-Rights/Safety information
- We are working with lawyers and digital security folks to create a KYR training, hopefully to be released in the next few weeks. This is a priority for us as we have heard the need reflected from community.
- Please send along any KYR information you have, we are trying to centralize this
- Two quick tips:
- If you are reliant on one source of income, diversify. You want to lie across a net rather than walk on a tightrope.
- A lot of what happens depends on tech platforms. For now, build relationships with people you trust and save harm reduction info on your hard drive.
- Check out our website for more resources/harm reduction info as well
- Immediate next-steps
- Fill out this form to tell us how you want to be involved
- Drop us an email (email@example.com) with the category in the subject line if
- you have a press contact who is SW-friendly and/or could be interested in doing in-depth coverage (“press”)
- you have thoughts on how best to disseminate KYR information to community, especially isolated community (“KYR”)
- We’re also trying to keep track of actions tech platforms are taking post-SESTA, help us document what we haven’t already posted about here
- We’ll try to get back to you within a few days, please be patient with us as there’s a lot going on and we’re unpaid organizers doing this between paid work, but we want to spread this out far and wide ASAP so everyone can engage
- Keep updated by checking our website, we update all the info we have there
- Start talking to your community and allies and developing informal organizing groups if you haven’t already