LC Graves, M.Ed, is a political and human rights activist who comes to jeffpearlman.com to express her dismay over Twitter’s recent locking out of online sex workers. Her work mainly focuses on LGBTQ+ and sex workers’ rights. She is bicoastally based and a helicopter mother to two cats. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Sex workers’ Twitter accounts are currently being locked en mass. Twitter has largely been considered the last major social media platform on which sex workers’ can post explicit content. For many, Twitter has become their main advertising platform. It has also become an invaluable tool for connecting with other sex workers, which is paramount to workers’ safety. Providers are rightfully panicking that this is the first step in removing sex workers from their last medium to share explicit content. Like so many other professionals, especially freelance workers, social media presence is the primary way providers are able to showcase their skills to attract clients.
This prolific locking of accounts (like this one belonging to Amethyst, for example) is causing fears in the community that Twitter will no longer allow providers to hold accounts. Even if providers do not lose full access to their accounts, workers are nervous Twitter will begin to function more like Instagram in that accounts will be easily flagged and deleted due to censorship which disproportionately affects women, sex workers, and sex educators. Others believe this to be a way to collect data on sex workers as Twitter has asked all providers to register a phone number with them in order to get back into their accounts.
In some ways, this comes as no surprise as providers have been anxiously awaiting devastatingly restrictive new terms of service and website crackdowns in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, a law which holds platforms accountable for their users’ actions. The law was theoretically created to combat sex trafficking, but it has done nothing to curb sex trafficking and has instead made it harder for law enforcement to find victims and has put sex workers in danger. Since the new law specifically targets platforms that advertise adult services, websites have been adapting their policies to censor any content which is sexual in nature.
SESTA/FOSTA came on the heels of the Backpage seizure by the federal government in 2018. In the last two years, most sex workers have reported significant declines in their incomes and client acquisition. Providers have also lost platforms for client screening and other resources to keep them safe. To compound the negative consequences of the two events, victims of sex trafficking are now harder to locate. The future of advertising and safety procedures for sex workers is at risk, and Twitter’s latest actions indicate that the internet is gearing up to be an even more hostile environment for providers.
Losing Twitter would be devastating for sex workers. It would be a huge loss for their business, safety, and community. Removing sex workers from online platforms only makes sex work more dangerous. While some providers choose sex work as it is the best fit for them, others seek it out as a way to transition out of otherwise dangerous or exploitative situations like abuse, homelessness, medical debt, poverty or single parenthood. So any attack on sex workers is an attack on some of the most marginalized citizens. Civilians need to show up for sex workers’ rights in the same droves they did for the Hustler movie and demand fair and equal treatment for sex workers.