Erased: The Impact of FOSTA-SESTA and the Removal of Backpage

Blunt, Danielle; Wolf, Ariel

A few days after Backpage was shut down by federal authorities,Public Law 115-164, better known as FOSTA-SESTA, became US law in 2018.The stated goal of this law was to reduce human trafficking by amending section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. What the law has actually done is put increased pressure on Internet platforms to censor their users. While the law has been lauded by its supporters, the communities that it directly impacts claim that it has increased their exposure to violence and left those who rely on sex work as their primary form of income without many of the tools they had used to keep themselves safe. In this sex worker-led study, Hacking//Hustling used a participatory action research model to gather quantitative and qualitative data regarding the impact of the removal of Backpage and the passage of FOSTA-SESTA on two groups of sex workers: those who work online, and primarily street-based sex workers who have limited access to technology. The results of our online survey (98 participants) and street-based survey (38 participants) indicate that the removal of Backpage and FOSTA-SESTA have had detrimental effects on