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Hours After FOSTA Passes, Reddit Bans 'Escorts' and 'SugarDaddy' Communities

The great content crackdown has begun.

screenshot/Redditscreenshot/RedditSometime around 2 a.m. last night, Reddit banned several long-running sex worker forums from the platform. The move comes just hours after the Senate passed a bill making digital facilitation of prostitution a federal crime. Under the new law, social media sites and other hubs of user-generated content can be held criminally liable.

For months, sex workers have warned that the passage of "SESTA" or "FOSTA"—two similarly bad bills that were competing for dominance; FOSTA passed yesterday—would mark the end of all online forums for communication with clients, lawyers, or each other. To sex workers like Liara Roux, Louise Partridge, and Jiz Lee, Reddit's takedown of these subreddits confirmed their fears about the new legislation.

Even if individuals aren't targeted by law enforcement for placing ads, and even if individual cases brought by state prosecutors are struck down as unconstitutional, a lot of platforms will preemptively ban anything remotely related to sex work rather than risk it.

So far, four subreddits related to sex have banned: Escorts, Male Escorts, Hookers, and SugarDaddy. None were what could accurately be described as advertising forums, though (to varying degrees) they may have helped connect some people who wound up in "mutually beneficial relationships." The escort forums were largely used by sex workers to communicate with one another, according to Partridge. Meanwhile, the "hooker" subreddit "was mostly men being disgusting," according to Roux, "but also was a place that sometimes had people answering educational questions in good faith."

If you visit the Reddit "Hooker" community now, you'll see a notice that "this subreddit was banned due to a violation of our content policy." The "Escorts" and "Male Escots" pages provides a little more detail: "This subreddit was banned due to a violation of our content policy, specifically, a violation of Reddit's policy against transactions involving prohibited goods or services."

Reddit yesterday announced changes to its content policy, now forbidding "transactions for certain goods and services," including "firearms, ammunition, or explosives" and "paid services involving physical sexual contact." While some of the prohibited exchanges are illegal, many are not.

Yet they run close enough up against exchanges that could be illegal that it's hard for a third-party like Reddit to differentiate. And the same goes for forums where sex workers post educational content, news, safety and legal advice. Without broad Section 230 protections, Reddit could be in serious financial and legal trouble if they make the wrong call.

Some have suggested that the new content policy, not FOSTA, is to blame for the shutdown of the sex-related subreddits. But FOSTA may also help explain Reddit's new content policy overall. (Reddit did not respond to my request for comment Thursday morning.)

FOSTA seriously chips away at Section 230, the federal provision that protects web publishers from being treated as the speaker of user-generated content. Proponents of FOSTA have insisted this is just a renovation of Section 230, not a demolition. But as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—who coauthored the Section 230 language in the '90s—noted yesterday, once you carve out a loophole for one bad thing (in this case, the change is allegedly meant to stop sex trafficking), it's easy for legislators and courts to carve out loopholes and justifications for everything.

After all, murder is pretty bad. And everyone's pretty jazzed up about the "opioid epidemic" right now. Guns, too. Do you think Congress can resist asking if websites that facilitate these crimes shouldn't be just as liable as those that broker sex?

But as Wyden also pointed out yesterday, this strategy doesn't mean that more sex traffickers—or murderers, illegal arms dealers, etc.—will be caught and punished (and perhaps less overall, for a vareity of reasons). It just means treating websites like the criminals instead—which would make the government a lot of money, but do nothing for safety or justice.

"Section 230 was never about protecting incumbents," Wyden told his colleagues from the Senate floor Wednesday. Yet "despite the fact that section 230 undergirds the framework of the internet as we know it today, there's a signifficant effort to take it down and collapse it." The result will be "an enourmous chilling effect on speech in America," Wyden warned.

Looks like we're already seeing the effects.

Photo Credit: screenshot/Reddit

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  • KG363||

    RIP r/gundeals

  • ||

    Wow!

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    Don't forget how Youtube basically blanket-banned Forgotten Weapons and C from the damned site over a bunch of special snowflake leftists over their inability to digest statistics and facts and only argue using emotion as well.

  • ||

    WITHF! r/brassswap is gone too!

  • x0x7||

    /r/gundeals is at https://voat.co/v/gundeals and is alive and well.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    What people of color in America don't understand is that they are all in a better situation than their ancestors earned. Whites are mostly in a worse situation than what our ancestors earned

    Hmm, that's the first article on the front-page.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Whoops, not first article, just meant on the front-page. And for comparison, let's see what dumb-shit is on the front page of reddit.

    Asking people to work for below poverty wages so you can own a business is entitlement at it's finest

  • Microaggressor||

    Teenagers in need of supplemental income hardest hit.

  • Zeb||

    I'm pretty sure those people you ask to work for low wages can say "no".

    I don't even know what to say to something like that.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Low opinion of politicians in general and congress in particular... confirmed.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    In my opinion, your opinion of politicians in general and congress in particular is ... much too high.

  • Rich||

    It just means treating websites like the criminals instead—which would make the government a lot of money, but do nothing for safety or justice.

    Hey! Safety and justice cost a lot of money!

  • albo||

    sex worker

    Anybody else tire of this euphemism yet? Isn't "prostitute" perfectly fine? It's not as nasty as "whore," but it's not as limp and PC sanitized as "sex worker."

  • Rhywun||

    Given that "prostitute" has all kinds of negative connotations, I can understand the move to a term with less baggage.

  • Longtobefree||

    I will go with Firefly - companion

  • sarcasmic||

    I'll be in my bunk.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Harslut" might work!

    So with sleezy "sex worker", harlots-whores-pornstars etc. advertising now being a risky endeavor, pimpdaddy.com web site shutting down, and what-not...

    WHERE is POTUS Trumpster-to-the-dumpster gonna find his next "hookup"?

  • Fjvjcdjjs||

    "Given that "prostitute" has all kinds of negative connotations"

    I'm well over people policing my language because of their own thin skin.

  • Zeb||

    How is it a euphemism? It is a phrase that describes what it refers to pretty succinctly. "Prostitute" is more euphemistic than "sex worker". Sex worker is also a broader category that covers more than just prostitutes.

    That said, I still prefer to use "prostitute" or "whore" depending on who I'm talking to.

  • Fjvjcdjjs||

    "How is it a euphemism? "

    So you're saying you don't know what a euphemism is.

  • Zeb||

    It would seem so.

  • Holmes IV||

    Because not all sex workers are prostitutes.

    From what I understand sex worker is a broad category that includes prostitute.

    It also includes adult entertainment (both solo and multi-person, as well as from cam-girls to "high" production porn), kink-for-hire (which may not include sexual contact, depending on the kink), stripping, etc.

    Even things like a naked maid service could be included in Sex Work, even if there is no actual sex.

    Now, you are right, much of the conversation around sex work does refer specifically to prostitution. However, no exclusively.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    We could go back to the original zoenah. It is a word from Ancient Hebrew that translates to prostitute. They enjoyed a separation of brothel and state.

  • DarrenM||

    Being the "oldest profession", I'd expect there would be many other words to choose from. Why are we arbitrarily limiting ourselves?

  • Agammamon||

    Sex worker encompasses a lot more that your basic prostitute - porn stars, phone sex, etc.

  • ||

    I've always been partial to "sporting lady".

  • colorblindkid||

    Just watch. In ten years when it's proven that this has only made everything worse and most of the people negatively affected are minorities and poor people, Democrats will claim that it was a right-wing conservative backwards-thinking scheme from the beginning and they had nothing to do with it, right before they pass some other stupid law trying to ban some other unbannable thing that will only make things worse. Again.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I believe you have summarily described our government to perfection.

  • colorblindkid||

    Also, Rand Paul is clearly still by the far the least horrible Senator. My opinion of Wyden certainly went up after this as well.

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    In ten years, we'll have archives of Reason to show people how that's bullsit.

  • colorblindkid||

    Yes we will at Reason, but nobody will listen because the entire press and media will still be sucking the Democrats' dicks and Republicans will still be morons.

  • Longtobefree||

    "FOSTA seriously chips away at Section 230"

    Actually, Facebook has done a very good job at eliminating section 230. Since they have begun curating content based on political viewpoint, they have become responsible for what is allowed. They cannot claim to be a neutral pass through or mere platform provider any longer.
    How long will Louis Farrakhan be allowed his racist platform while others have their racist platform revoked?
    How long will Louis Farrakhan be allowed his anti-Jewish platform while others have their anti-Islam platform revoked?
    How long until the pitchforks and torches come out? (either political or physical)

  • colorblindkid||

    Likewise with Twitter. They took away a bunch of "white supremacist" blue check marks, therefore declaring that the blue checkmark is not just a sign that somebody is who they say they are, but that their message is acceptable to Twitter.

    Yet President Rouhani, who advocates for the annihilation of Israel, denies the Holocaust happened, executes homosexuals, and bans Twitter from his entire country, still has his blue check-mark. This is despite the fact that Iranians can't even read his tweets.

  • Finrod||

    It's even worse than that with Twitter. People are finding out that some urls, Twitter refuses to let you post about. Funny, every one of those urls are to something written that's right of center. Almost as if Twitter was Deciding What You're Not Allowed To See Or Talk About.

  • Fjvjcdjjs||

    'This sub had a slur in the name"

    Shut up whore.

  • Mark22||

    I propose we replace "whore" and "hooker" by a euphemism; maybe we could call these women "clintons". People will forever be guessing whether the term is a reference to Bill or Hillary.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Given the close proximity, will this one day unfairly be connected to the repeal of net neturality?

  • x0x7||

    A lot of these communities are moving to Voat as always is the case. /r/GunDeals is has already had its successful migration.

  • Finrod||

    In a similar vein, since YouTube has declared guns verboten, a lot of the 2A channels have relocated to: PornHub.

  • flyfishnevada||

    They can't stop people from exercising their rights...free speech in this case...so they hold the social media platform responsible. Nice trick. Totally unconstitutional IMHO but then that has to be fought out in the courts for umpteen years. In the meantime, Big Brother can control speech.

    And YouTube, Facebook, etc. banning gun related content is totally different. That's legal, though hypocritical at best since these places claim to value free speech and diversity of thought. The government isn't banning speech...yet. When YouTube bans content, creators and viewers have a choice. When government bans speech, they don't.

  • Sigivald||

    Isn't it nice of Reddit to ban stuff before such a thing is even law?

    (Or do the Redditors literally have no idea how US lawmaking works?)

  • JWatts||

    I suspect the Redditors understand the power of the media. Look at the current media circus around Facebook and Cambridge Analytics. Those actions were legal and pretty similar to what the Obama election campaign did in 2012. And yet heads will roll.

    So, honestly, I can't blame them.

  • Agammamon||

    This isn't unusual. Businesses don't wait till the last minute to make compliance adjustments.

    Look at the people who like to point out that there's never a massive spike in unemployment following a min wage hike - conveniently ignoring that all those people were laid off in the months prior as businesses reorganized in anticipation.

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    FOSTA claims to impose *retroactive* liability. Unless SCotUS is asleep at the switch, they should declare retroactivity unconstitutional; nevertheless, prudent platforms wish to reduce risk just in case.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Libertarian platform is totally unlike the cowards at Reddit. LP spoiler votes kill bad laws. I am hoping America's working girls will register and vote Libertarian. Libertarian spoiler votes have at least 6x the law-changing clout of a vote wasted on the anti-energy, misanthropic global warming crap the Democrats think is more important than Rights. We also need pro-choice candidates so we can tell Go-Pee infiltrators to take a hike. Ours is the growing party that wrote the Roe v. Wade decision back in 1972--before women's rights were fashionable.

  • silver.||

    I made an alternate Reddit account to write about controversial issues and found that I could only post once per 10 minutes if I lacked upvotes on a particular subreddit. Since my viewpoint was unpopular, I had no chance of getting upvotes, so I was effectively excluded from the discussion. I know some new account restrictions are important for spam, but I don't see how it's possible to build a counter-narrative now.

    100% useless as a serious debate platform now. I only use it for small hobby communities.

  • DarrenM||

    Is this even law yet? Does it still need to be signed by the President?

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    Trump is expected to sign it. He is no fan of free speech or freedom of the press.

  • Star1988||

    Someone needs to make Ron Wyden a prominent voice in America.

  • StackOfCoins||

    Paul/Wyden 2020

  • BlueStarDragon||

    I wonder if they will take down the sex offenders registry now. Since they put both prostitutes and johns name on their for all to see. I that does not count for advertisement I do not know what does. Also everybody you forgot about Call Girl , A name normally used for a high price & high quality prostitutes.

  • Incredulous||

    This is a major assault on liberty. It blatantly violates the First Amendment. The ramifications are immense. Its intent is horrible alone - an attack on the basic rights of sex workers and their clientele. Its unintended consequences are even more horrible. It could have a chilling effect on all speech over the internet and any activity deemed immoral by Big Brother.

    I didn't think I could despise politicians more than I already did. I was very wrong. This is fucking depressing.

  • Hank Phillips||

    What a boon for Canada! Female immigrants to Canada have visibly outnumbered males since Canada went one better than Roe v. Wade and struck down all efforts to coerce women and physicians on choice. But a glance at the web indicates that working Girls there are as free as in Mexico, Brazil, France (which would include Miquelon), Germany, Denmark, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, (gasp!) Italy... Canada and Mexico should be able to gain some tourist dollars out of these latest Republican suicide-scene hesitation marks.

  • SoFree||

    Girls from the escort in Athens https://escortathens.info/ are very sexy and liberated, they can teach you new things in sex.

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