Author: Heidi Tripp

All Sex Workers Deserve Protection: How FOSTA/SESTA Overlooks Consensual Sex Workers in an Attempt Protect Sex Trafficking Victims

Penn State Law Review, Vol 124, Issue 1. Article 6.


The internet provided consensual sex workers with a sense of safety and community not available on the streets. Screening clients before meeting them, sharing information about dangerous clients, and finding work without relying on pimps turned a historically dangerous profession into a safer, more reliable way to earn a living.

Unfortunately, the internet also provided sex traffickers with a more efficient way to advertise sex trafficking victims without detection by law enforcement. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites hosting advertisements of sex trafficking victims were often immune from liability. Section 230, which meant to promote free speech on the internet, repeatedly left these victims without remedy. Congress recognized a need to hold someone responsible for online advertisements of sex trafficking victims. FOSTA/SESTA removed
website immunity under Section 230 to encourage websites to diligently monitor and remove sex trafficking posts or otherwise be held responsible for facilitating the unlawful action. To avoid the work of monitoring content under FOSTA/SESTA, websites removed posting capabilities
previously used by consensual sex workers. Congress failed to consider how the internet protects consensual sex workers and how this protection would be stripped from them in the wake of FOSTA/SESTA.

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