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Without the time or resources to build a whole new network from scratch, the group turned to Mastodon.
Although ostensibly aimed at sex trafficking prevention, FOSTA’s reduction of legal protections for websites is having disastrous consequences for sex workers.
“It’s very frustrating, to be targeted like that,” Buffy says.
“Switter is a safe space, one where I don’t have to dance around the word ‘escort’ or pretend I’m something I’m not.
“As the websites continue to be made and shut down, eventually, new central hubs will become apparent, and I intend to be a part of them.” As sex workers fight for their livelihoods, there’s also concern about the social implications of being driven off public web platforms.
The stigma around sex work is far from gone, and the fallout from FOSTA for those in the industry is proof.
Lumping “paid sexual services” into the same category as guns and drugs, she says, is only furthering the idea that paying for sex is an immoral act. Furthermore, driving sex workers off mainstream sites like Reddit, Craigslist, or Skype means pushing them away from resources that Hunt says are absolutely vital.
“This will only force many more workers into the hands of exploitation and street work, as they will no longer have access to these resources,” she says.
Over the past few weeks, sex workers have been turning to an unexpected platform to remain online: the social network Mastodon, under a new instance called “Switter.” Melbourne-based company Assembly Four created Switter after its founders learned that social media platforms were either removing sex workers’ content or banning their accounts.“Losing these platforms means there is a much higher chance of ending up in a potentially life-threatening situation.” One escort, Buffy, tells that it’s hard to pinpoint one single thing that’s currently at stake in the wake of FOSTA’s passing.“The reality of it is, my career and my entire life are in jeopardy because of this bill,” she says.Instead, sex workers will be driven to the streets, she says, and may even lose their ability to do their work independently.As online options are vanishing, Rhee says she’s received solicitations from services offering to help her get clients.That is incredibly valuable right now.” Although she doesn’t consider it a permanent solution to her booking needs, it’s a place to continue her work for now.“I am simply keeping my eyes and ears open and paying attention to where others are going,” she says.“They see this as an opportunity to essentially be pimps,” she says.“FOSTA is, ironically, going to lead to more people being trafficked,” Rhee adds. Adult content is disappearing off Google Drive, and many sex workers say they’re being forced off social media. The controversial classifieds site Backpage, which many escorts used to screen clients, has been seized by the FBI.