Tim Cushing For TechDirt: UK Parliament Members Looking To Punish Websites, Push Traffickers Underground Our government decided to make the internet worse, endanger the lives of sex workers, and make it harder for law enforcement to hunt down sex traffickers. And it was all done in the name of fighting sex trafficking. SESTA/FOSTA’s passage immediately contributed to all three problems upon passage, throwing sex workers under the bus along with Section 230 immunity. The upside for the government was obvious: it could now target websites and site owners, rather than sex traffickers, for grandstanding prosecutions.
Violet Blue reports for Engadget that the UK government — no stranger to terrible laws targeting the internet — is thinking about copy-pasting FOSTA for its own use. It would also like to do all the things listed above, only without the minimal restraint of the First Amendment.
A self-appointed group of MPs (the “All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade”) fronted by Ms. Champion made a call to ban “prostitution websites” during a Wednesday House of Commons debate. Conflating sex work with trafficking just like their American counterparts, they claim websites where workers advertise and screen clients “directly and knowingly” profit from sex trafficking.
Watching British politicians advance something as broken and harmful as FOSTA-SESTA is like watching an animal try to chew its leg off to escape a trap — while we’re all standing outside the glass enclosure shouting “that’s the wrong leg!” Champion is apparently OK about the fact that they’re parroting Trump and FOSTA-SESTA; she’s even joked that it’s a special kind of irony. Indeed.
It’s not that sex trafficking doesn’t exist or shouldn’t be addressed. It’s that this “solution” does nothing to solve the problem. It only makes it worse. It drives traffickers underground, making law enforcement’s job that much more difficult. And it impairs the ability of sex workers — those who have chosen this line of work freely — to earn a living. It increases the dangers they face, especially when paired with increased criminalization of those purchasing sex.
The adoption of FOSTA as a blueprint for sex trafficking legislation also ignores the ugly truth about its support stateside. It’s not about sex trafficking. It’s about punishing those who are easiest to reach: websites and customers. That sex trafficking will hum along under the radar uninterrupted doesn’t phase supporters of this law. It’s enough that the government will publicly hang a few website owners for content posted by third parties.
It will be worse in the UK where a challenge along civil liberties lines is more likely to fail. UK speech laws are a mess and it’s unlikely opponents of the proposed law will find judicial relief from UK FOSTA knockoff. The lives the law endangers are of zero concern to a majority of politicians and the platform the law is built on — ending sex trafficking — is something very few feel comfortable taking a stand against.
A FOSTA Of One’s Own: UK Parliament Members Looking To Punish Websites, Push Traffickers Underground | Techdirt