As the sun sets on online freedoms, sex workers of all kinds are quietly and swiftly being silenced on social media. Rightfully they're fed up, and are fighting back with a new website Switter, a play on 'sex workers' and 'Twitter', which is an
alternative social network that's created by, and for, sex workers.
Switter's creation was initially in response to sites like Twitter, where those in the sex industry have been finding themselves "shadow banned", ie banned by the internet
company acting on its own motivations rather than banned by the laws of the land.
Sex workers have always been more or less banned by Facebook but since the new Sosta law, major companies are setting out to censor all sex content as th emores
practical or cost effective way of addressing the Sosta requirement to censor sex trafficking content.
Even Skype, the platform that many independent sex workers use to run their private shows, has specified in their latest Code of Conduct that
the services not be used for "inappropriate content or material" like "nudity" and "pornography."
The new social network obviously can't be US based so the mantle has fallen to an Australian company, Assembly Four.
The software is based on the open source Mastodon and does not have any built-in tracking, doesn't enforce real name policies, and doesn't' ask for any personal information for profiles.
Its early days yet, but the fledging social network says it
already has about 8,000 members.
The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to
censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.
The version of FOSTA
that just passed the Senate combined an earlier version of FOSTA (what we call FOSTA 2.0) with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). The history of SESTA/FOSTA -- a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and then was rushed through
votes in both houses of Congress2 -- is a story about Congress' failure to see that its good intentions can result in bad law. It's a story of Congress' failure to listen to the constituents who'd be most affected by the laws it passed. It's also the
story of some players in the tech sector choosing to settle for compromises and half-wins that will put ordinary people in danger. Silencing Internet Users Doesn't Make Us Safer
SESTA/FOSTA undermines Section 230, the most
important law protecting free speech online. Section 230 protects online platforms from liability for some types of speech by their users. Without Section 230, the Internet would look very different. It's likely that many of today's online platforms
would never have formed or received the investment they needed to grow and scale204the risk of litigation would have simply been too high. Similarly, in absence of Section 230 protections, noncommercial platforms like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive
likely wouldn't have been founded given the high level of legal risk involved with hosting third-party content.
The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know that their sites are being used for trafficking.
Importantly, Section 230 does not shield platforms from liability under federal
criminal law. Section 230 also doesn't shield platforms across-the-board from liability under civil law: courts have allowed civil claims against online platforms when a platform directly contributed to unlawful speech. Section 230 strikes a careful
balance between enabling the pursuit of justice and promoting free speech and innovation online: platforms can be held responsible for their own actions, and can still host user-generated content without fear of broad legal liability.
SESTA/FOSTA upends that balance, opening platforms to new criminal and civil liability at the state and federal levels for their users' sex trafficking activities. The platform liability created by new Section 230 carve outs applies
retroactively -- meaning the increased liability applies to trafficking that took place before the law passed. The Department of Justice has raised concerns about this violating the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, at least for the criminal
The bill also expands existing federal criminal law to target online platforms where sex trafficking content appears. The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know
that their sites are being used for trafficking.
Finally, SESTA/FOSTA expands federal prostitution law to cover those who use the Internet to promote or facilitate prostitution. The Internet will become a less inclusive
place, something that hurts all of us.
And if you had glossed over a little at the legal details, perhaps a few examples of the immediate censorship impact of the new law
SESTA's passage by the U.S. Senate has had an immediate chilling effect on those working in the adult industry.
Today, stories of a fallout are being heard, with adult performers finding their content being flagged and blocked, an
escort site that has suddenly becoming not available, Craigslist shutting down its personals sections and Reddit closing down some of its communities, among other tales.
SESTA, which doesn't differentiate between sex trafficking
and consensual sex work, targets scores of adult sites that consensual sex workers use to advertise their work.
And now, before SESTA reaches President Trump's desk for his guaranteed signature, those sites are scrambling to
prevent themselves from being charged under sex trafficking laws.
It's not surprising that we're seeing an immediate chilling effect on protected speech, industry attorney Lawrence Walters told XBIZ. This was predicted as the
likely impact of the bill, as online intermediaries over-censor content in the attempt to mitigate their own risks. The damage to the First Amendment appears palpable.
Today, longtime city-by-city escort service website, CityVibe.com, completely disappeared, only to be replaced with a message, Sorry, this website is not available.
Tonight, mainstream classified site
Craigslist, which serves more than 20 billion page views per month, said that it has dropped personals listings in the U.S.
Motherboard reported today that at least six porn performers have complained that files have been
blocked without warning from Google's cloud storage service. It seems like all of our videos in Google Drive are getting flagged by some sort of automated system, adult star Lilly Stone told Motherboard. We're not even really getting notified of it, the
only way we really found out was one of our customers told us he couldn't view or download the video we sent him.
Another adult star, Avey Moon was trying to send the winner of her Chaturbate contest his prize -- a video
titled POV Blowjob -- through her Google Drive account, but it wouldn't send.
Reddit made an announcement late yesterday explaining that the site has changed its content policy, forbidding transactions for certain goods and
services that include physical sexual contact. A number of subreddits regularly used to help sex workers have been completedly banned. Those include r/Escorts , r/MaleEscorts and r/SugarDaddy .
Klubb Naket, a daring new nightclub which encourages its customers to get naked opened up its doors in Stockholm this weekend. While organizers described it as a great success, the neighbouring church claimed it was a breeding ground for broken souls.
Hundreds of people attended the opening night at the venue on the capital's hipster island Södermalm.
The club plays electronic music and targets mainly a fetish and queer audience, and those that undress get free entry.
The club also
offers what it describes as hinges, dark corners where clubbers can do what you feel right now and then.
But not everyone is as happy about the club's opening, miserable gits at the local church want to shut Club Naked down. Pastor Lennart
Torebring at Södermalmskyrkan whinged:
Many of our youth members come from the suburbs and have been subject to prostitution and abuse, and so they have reacted very strongly. We believe in sexual purity and that
sexuality needs to be protected through marriage. But aside from that, we also have to consider that we can't just do whatever we like. What happens on Södermalm now can have serious consequences, the club becomes a breeding ground for depression and
A new tour operator has launched in the UK offering adult-only, hedonistic holidays to cater for swingers and nudists.
According to the Uniquely Adult website , the tour operator based in Royston provides a selection of superior,
sexually-stimulating, all-inclusive holidays to serve the needs of travellers who want to encounter a freer lifestyle when on their break.
The company offers a variety of packages starting at entry level and moving onto a
clothing-optional holiday option. The party package is for those seeking a discreet playground for adults to satisfy their sensual side, while the wild at heart tour includes wet and wild foam parties.
Uniquely Adult, which
arranges holidays primarily in Antigua , Jamaica and Cancun, also offers a no limits package for swingers who love it in groups whether in the Jacuzzis or the playrooms.
We met her at one
of the quieter bars in Hua Hin, the closest beach city to Bangkok, where women of various ages hung around pool tables in miniskirts and spiky heels, waiting for their next client to choose them. It was Valentine's Day.
With long, black, shiny hair and dark skin, Dao was older and friendlier than the other women. She was the only one who smiled at me, an American woman out of her element. Like my husband, who stood beside me, every
other patron was male.
I ordered a Singha beer and took quick sips, hoping for a buzz to calm my shaky hands. That's when she approached us.
Westminster Council has shut down the Windmill table dancing club after an anonymous feminist group hired private detectives to snitch on no touch rules being broken for private dnances.
The club has 21 days to appeal.
The Windmill is a
relic of the area's colourful past as it was previously the venue hosted a long running erotic show.
The Sun visited The Windmill this week to find its glory days are long gone. Low lighting hides stained carpets and scuffed leather seats. On
the stage, Eastern European dancers swayed moodily to music. The Sun noted that a private dance costs £40, and a bottle of Becks beer £8.
Offsite Comment: putting women out of work is about the most un-feminist thing
I've been dancing in strip clubs since 2006, and I query the method and motives behind campaigns to shut down clubs. Closing down a venue may feel like a victory to those who champion the abolition of the industry, but taking work away from women
relying on it is tantamount to taking food from our mouths. Thousands of girls who otherwise have less value in the wider job market (foreign nationals, single mums, anyone with any sort of disadvantaged background) are turning to stripping and other
forms of sex work to survive. According to the English Collective of Prostitutes, record numbers have moved into the sex industry under austerity, which disproportionately affects women, particularly single mothers. In fact, putting women out of work is
about the most un-feminist thing possible.
The move against
Windmill Club came after a women's rights group complained the club was breaching conditions banning physical contact between dancers and clients.
The group had hired former police officers to collect evidence and one of them described how a
dancer rubbed herself up and down on him and touched him intimately. He also said the dancer paid the security guard 2£10 to look the other way.
The Soho Society said it was concerned women working for the Windmill may end up in a working
environment where they are even more vulnerable than they are at present.
Many Thai women become sex workers not because they are poor, but in order to escape poverty. In doing so they have become providers and heads of households, and they deserve respect for that accomplishment.
Women in Thailand
hold the responsibility and pride of supporting the family. In modern times the needs of the family cannot be grown by hand, but rather women must find cash to provide. Opportunities for women with no qualifications and no capital are limited. The work
we can find is undervalued and is always the same every day. There are few surprises and no bonuses.
A small number of us, after many minimum wage jobs, decide to apply for work in karaoke lounges, massage parlours, brothels or
bars ... we decide to become sex workers. We are making a choice between the options available to us. We cannot choose options that do not exist.
Corrupt authorities use the law to make us pay for our human rights.
As sex workers we earn at least double the minimum wage. We make enough to support five other adults in our families. The work can be hard and sometimes boring, but it is rarely the same. There are lots of surprises and many bonuses.
In the modern form of sex work in Thailand we apply for our jobs and are hired or rejected. Our workplaces have regulations. There is no pimp, mafia, or gang -- there is only the motorcycle taxi guy and the business manager. Our
work concerns are similar to those of other workers, e.g. inadequate paid leave, lack of social security coverage, occupational health and safety.
We work to buy land and build houses. We work to pay taxes (including bribes to
corrupt police), to finance the university fees of our brothers or the rental costs of shops for our sisters, and to cover any other emergencies. We become the bread winners and so make many of the big decisions for our families. Sex workers also build
up the country. As far back as 1998, the International Labour Organisation reported that we were sending $300 million home to rural areas each year, larger than any development project. We are also the backbone of the tourism industry, which makes up
around 10% of Thailand's annual GDP.
Sex work has become a way out of generational poverty for us and our families that also boosts the country's wealth. We don't do sex work because we are poor, we do sex work to end our poverty.
Adapting to survive
Sex workers in Thailand have been organising, resisting and responding to change for centuries.
Each generation of sex workers has had to invent and learn
new skills that in earlier years were never imagined. We adapted to the end of slavery and the arrival of a cash economy. We keep track of world events, politics, economics, and sports to understand our customers. We learned about passports, visas, and
travel. We used post cards, telegrams, pagers, emails, mobile phones, web cams, and now apps.
We want to know, if society were asked to think of us, not as criminals, immoral women, or helpless victims, but as humans, mothers,
workers, and family providers, what laws and systems could be imagined?
We have also greeted many new customers over the years. Starting with the Chinese migrants of the late 1700s, the list also includes Japanese soldiers during
world war two, GI's from the US during the war in Vietnam, American and other allied troops on leave from their wars in the Gulf countries. Despite being denied schooling we learned new languages -- Chinese, Japanese and English. We learned about dealing
with the trauma of war. We learned the customs of many countries. Today we meet more than 15 million men from every corner of the world when they visit amazing Thailand each year.
Society has relied on sex workers to keep working,
bringing in the money to mend the problems.
In 1960, when the Suppression and Prevention of Prostitution Act first made it illegal to buy or sell sex, we had to learn another new skill -- working on top of criminal law. We quickly
learned that corrupt authorities use the law to make us pay for our human rights; the right to work, the right to safety and justice. We learned that criminal law is a way to suppress our rights -- it is not designed to promote them.
In the late 1980s the country was building up its tourism and industry. Thailand welcomed millions of tourists. Thai sex workers travelled throughout the world, while our neighbours from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China
were coming to Thailand to build a better life. Moving to work is our path of resistance. We refuse to accept the situations or conditions we were born into and dream of a better life. Migration is our solution, not our problem.
However, instead of the governments working to promote safe migration the Anti-trafficking Law landed on top of us. We learned that anti- trafficking law does not improve our working conditions, increase our options, or end our poverty. It does not reduce armed conflict in our homelands. It does not reduce corruption. It does not increase support for children and minors. It does not demand governments or society respect us or our basic human rights. Crucially, anti-trafficking law and practice do not reduce trafficking or provide justice to workers in such situations in any industry, including the sex industry. We know this, because our organisation detailed the impact of anti-trafficking law and practice on sex workers' human rights in its 2012 community research report, Hit & Run.
The need to stand together
Instead of being admired as activists, leaders, workers, and providers we are called bad women, criminals, and victims. We are portrayed as weak, stupid, and childlike. Our
contribution to the family and the country is ignored, or redefined as a burden or exploitation.
Increasing stigma and law has destroyed the links between us. Our friends who stayed working in the factory, on the land, or in a
shop have become distant and afraid of associating with bad women and criminals. Organisations that used to cooperate together have become confused both at national and international levels. Women's groups are not sure whether to work with sex worker
organisations or not. They are unsure whether to see sex workers and their organisations as criminals, as victims of criminals, or as equal partners deserving of respect. The women's movement is fractured. Projects had their funding threatened when the
George W. Bush, the former US president, introduced the anti-prostitution pledge in 2003. This pledge was declared unconstitutional in 2013, but only for organisations working in the US. It requires that organisations funded by USAID must not take any
action or position which could promote, support, or advocate the legalisation or practice of prostitution) Sensational reporting and hysteria have reinforced the confusion, resulting in many groups becoming afraid to stand openly with sex workers.
And so we must stand together.
For 30 years we have been organising as Empower -- Thailand's national sex worker organisation. Around 50,000 sex workers have been a part of Empower. They advocate for their
rights and against stigma, their efforts helped by their presence in work places, health counselling, and trainings in spheres such as Thai literacy, health education, English language, IT, and legal rights. We are sex workers working in all sectors of
the industry. We love our work, hate our work, and, like most workers in any job, are often somewhere in between. We are just starting out, or have years of experience, are planning to change jobs, or retire. We are Thai, ethnic minorities, and migrants
from neighbouring countries.
We want to know, if society were asked to think of us, not as criminals, immoral women, or helpless victims, but as humans, mothers, workers, and family providers, what laws and systems could be
imagined? How should the state treat women who are head of the family?
While we wait for an answer all around the world, people are still asking: prostitution -- good or bad? Legal, illegal, decriminalised -- what is best? The
debate goes on and on while we are still providing for our families, building up the country, advising each government that comes along, trying to stand up with others all while continuing to work on top of a mountain of stigma and laws.
is a Thai sex worker organisation that has been promoting rights and opportunities for sex workers since 1985. It is led and largely managed by sex workers in Thailand. The majority of its support comes from international donors e.g. Mama Cash, American
Jewish World Service, but Empower also receives contributions from the Thai government as well as our own fundraising.
In a recent interview Ben Koh, CEO of Playboy Enterprises made a comment that could mark the end of Playboy's 60 year-long run. He said:
Historically, we could justify the [magazine's] losses because of the marketing
value, but you also have to be forward-thinking. I'm not sure that print is necessarily the best way to communicate to our consumer going forward.
At its height, Playboy sold more than 7 million copies. The circulation of Playboy is
now down to under 500,000 copies.
After Hugh Hefner's death, his son, Cooper Hefner who serves as COO of Playboy Enterprises tried to refocus the magazine towards younger readers with more of an FHM style. The magazine initially stopped all the
nudity, but later reintroduced topless girls (and transgender girls). It seems that the new approach hasn't been a hit.
Toronto once had more than 60 bars with nude dancers, only a dozen remain, the rest have been replaced by condominiums, restaurants, and housewares stores.
Demand for homes downtown and for the retailers that serve them is driving land prices to
records, tempting owners of the clubs, most of which are family-run, to sell at a time when business is slowing. It's a similar story in other North American cities, where the demand for exotic dancers is cooling amid the rise of free porn and live video
chats on the internet.
The latest example in Toronto is Remington's Men of Steel, a male dance club behind a heavy door, which is closing this year, to be replaced by a 98-story condo.
In Toronto, massage parlours have proliferated
elsewhere in the city, while arduous rezoning regulations and a rule restricting new strip-club licenses mean that once a joint shutters its doors, it isn't likely to be replaced.
The fading of the strip-club era can be seen in a five-block area
along Yonge Street. It was once dubbed Sin Strip for its neon-clad bars, sex shops, and movie theatres. Today, there are about 20 development applications for condos and commercial buildings on the stretch.
I don't think we'll be around in 10
years' time, according to Bill Greer, general manager and three-decade veteran of the Brass Rail Tavern.
Globally we saw a 2.4% increase in percentage viewership by women in 2017 as women made up an ever larger part of the overall viewing community. This is trend we've
seen consistently in recent years. Not only are more women coming online, they're coming at a greater rate than men are.
The real story might be emerging markets. South Africa and Saudi Arabia both saw double digit
percentage of women in their audience, reflecting changing attitudes towards adult content, particularly among younger viewers.
Globally, women now make up 26% of the audience. Of course, some countries those number
still have a ways to go.
The top search results for overall in 2017 were:
Growth Markets, 2018
Globally, porn traffic to xHamster grew by 8.9% last year. However, certain patterns were discernible. Traffic in Southeast Asia spiked, as more communities came
online. Countries that had previously blocked porn sites saw their traffic spike, while others, facing anti-porn legislation, mandatory filters and blocks, or campaigns against porn, saw traffic fall. (The US was among the latter, perhaps to increasing
censorship in corporate networks :-( )
The greatest growth was in South Korea, where porn has been traditionally banned, but where the population is currently experiencing a sexual revolution. Traffic tripled in the
past twelve months.
We've also seen a shift in who we're watching. Continuing a trend we've seen in years past, viewers are shifting away from lighter complected ethnicities, like German, Italian and French, to more
Mediterranean nationalities. (Japanese still dominates searches, but even it is down 37% from just a year ago.)