Sex Workers Are at the Forefront of the Fight Against Mass Surveillance and Big Tech

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A paper in the Fordham Law Review by Lura Chamberlain ’20 was referenced in an Observer article on sex workers. Chamberlain discusses the negative and dangerous impact that technology and surveillance have placed on the sex worker community.

The impact of SESTA-FOSTA has been sweeping and unforgiving toward the sex working community, both in the United States, as well as globally. The law itself, along with the reactions of the general public, internet platforms and the sex working community, has had a profound impact. It has influenced not only the sex working community but arguably the entire American political landscape in 2019, as it is often the gateway topic to conversations around decriminalization of sex work as a whole.

Sex workers have been surveilled long before the use of facial recognition technology, before algorithms and before data collecting. Sex workers come from every corner of society because people of all identities have traded sex to survive. However, sex workers of color, queer sex workers, sex workers who use drugs and those who work outdoors are at higher risk of surveillance and violence from the criminal justice system. SESTA-FOSTA has contributed to a long history of sex working communities being othered from the greater society, targeted for surveillance and being carelessly put at risk for violence, this time in the name of “anti-trafficking” efforts.

According to Lura Chamberlain in her Fordham Law Review paper FOSTA: A Hostile Law with a Human Cost,” “Within one month of FOSTA’s enactment, 13 sex workers were reported missing, and two were dead from suicide.” Within a single month, FOSTA-SESTA’s passing had a tangible impact on the sex working community, yet according to sex worker, writer, and activist Lorelei Lee, “there’s been no criminal prosecutions using the law in the 18 months since it passed.”

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