In the immediate aftermath of SESTA/FOSTA passing, before it’s even been signed into law, we’re already seeing discussion of sex work on the internet hit.
Some companies, like Patreon, seem to have preemptively changed their policies last year while the legislation was being written. Others have started publicly changing their policies today and it should be expected they won’t be the last. Cityvibe, an advertising site that mostly concentrated on LA, is down in the last 24 hours. (Eds. note: since the writing of this article, TER has restructured, and Craigslist has removed its personals section.) Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer just left the company, as well, which means we’re going to see a new direction in that department.
On Reddit, after the site posted new policy updates, here’s a message that was sent to moderators of r/SexWork, an important educational and harm reduction discussion forum:
What does “zero tolerance” mean? No one really knows. What is clear is that sites like Reddit will try to unload their responsibility to comply with this law onto users and volunteer moderators. Though paid Reddit admins can remove posts themselves, Reddit is instead threatening an entire community with closure if they ever miss a post Reddit determines to be over the line.
I have to say, at least, that it’s nice they even reached out. Reddit has already closed r/escorts, r/Hookers, r/MaleEscorts, and r/SugarDaddy, among others.
Some tech companies may hold out until there’s legal action taken against them, but I can’t imagine any company wants to be the first.
So. What can you do? Right now, most users on these sites are a in the dark with no clear path forward. A social media site can shut down your account whenever they want, for any reason, with no recourse or appeal. The First Amendment implications of this are still untested.
One measure people have discussed is self-censoring your profile. This is a shitty thing to have to consider, but it IS possible keywords could be used to decide what profiles are “risky” to flag for removal.
I can’t decide for you if removing your old tweets is worth your time. It’s possible this could matter a lot. It’s possible it won’t matter at all. For some people, old tweets have sentimental or historical value, while for others removing them could be a serious matter of safety.
Self-censoring is an unfortunate thing to have to resort to, but I believe right now it’s most important to maintain our networks and followers. Deleting your account is doing the dirty work for the tech companies – you may be able to avoid losing your account so you can continue participating in the community and being involved in a broader political discussion.
If you decide to delete tweets, there are a few ways to do it. This guide will be based on using a desktop or laptop and not a cell phone, since some of these features are not available on phone.
There’s an app called TweetEraser that offers a service to search and delete tweets in bulk. (Eds. note: Some people have also recommended an application called ShameEraser.)
You’ll have to sign up by linking your Twitter and authorizing it within the app. The initial load of tweets can take a really long time, but then you should be able to search for terms fairly easily. Here’s what it looks like:
It seems like this can be used without paying, but you may run into some limitations. I’m not 100% sure it sees all replies and retweets and without paying it may be limited in how many of your tweets it searches (if you have over 5000).
If you do use this method, you may want to do it once with this app and then with the manual method described below, which is free and can be done just using Twitter directly without allowing access to a third party application.
Go to your settings in a desktop browser window. The link is twitter.com/settings/account. At the bottom there is a section called “Your Twitter Archive”. You can click a button here to start generating it. (Mine says “Resend” cause I just did it)
After a little bit, you’ll get an email that looks like the one below. Click the link and you’ll download a .zip file with a long weird file name.
You can open this file with a variety of programs, I’m using WinRAR. You’ll want to extract the whole folder. I renamed mine, as you can see. There’s actually a ReadMe file in here too!
Remember to extract the whole folder. You’ll need the subfolders in order for this to work, since they hold the actual data. The csv file can probably be ignored — it’s a comma separated list which can be opened in programs like Excel to see all your tweets in a spreadsheet format.
For now, you’ll want to click on the index.html file. This is basically like a website, but you’re loading it directly off your computer. So it loads a lot faster than trying to get your tweets from Twitter’s server while browsing. The folders above hold info for this page.
Once you open the html file in a web browser, you can type in search terms on the upper right. Here I’m looking for tweets that use the word “escort”.
The search will also find retweets. This can be useful if you are worried you might be accused of “facilitating” something – we really don’t know what behavior is targeted under the new laws so you’ll have to decide how to balance safety and community promotion for yourself.
As you’re searching, you can click the “View on Twitter” link to view posts on the web and remove (or un-retweet) them. On my PC, I browse through and hit these links with my middle mouse button to open them in a bunch of tabs—a little easier for me than going back and forth
In case you need a refresher, you can delete a tweet on desktop by clicking the downward arrow on the top right of the tweet and selecting “Delete Tweet” from the drop-down. To remove a retweet, hit the retweet button a second time so it goes back to being gray.
This can be a time-intensive process, but you can also use it to find one or two tweets you remember making if you just want to get those. You might want to just look up phrases like “tour dates” or even “I’ll be in”, to remove things that are definitely advertising gigs and not just speaking in the abstract.
If you want to delete all your tweets without deleting your account, I think Tweet Delete still works.
If you’ve been added to any “lists” or created your own, you may want to delete yours or block and then unblock someone to remove yourself from someone else’s. If you have a key phrase in your twitter name, like GFE or Escort, you may want to change your username. If you decide it’s the best option for you, here is how to deactivate and permanently delete your account.
Now let’s look at a couple of safety measures you can take on Reddit. The policy update they did mentions “physical sexual contact”, which may give you an idea of what you might want to look for.
Here’s a site that may make finding key phrases a little easier: redditcommentsearch.com
You can just enter a key phrase and your username and hit search. It might take a minute depending on how many comments you have, since this is doing the search with a scan of the public data of Reddit, instead of a downloaded archive on your computer like we got from Twitter.
You can then click the links below to find comments to delete.
You can also use a Chrome browser extension to scrup your whole public reddit history. The Google Chrome plugin Nuke Reddit History overwrites all your comments with nonsense and then deletes them. Note: this can take a LONG time to finish depending on how much you use the site.
If you’ve got a fan subreddit or one you run yourself, you may want to put a disclaimer of some sort in the description sidebar. Here’s the exact text of what I put in mine, with formatting, that you can use if you want to paste it in:
**Important:** On Reddit, you can discuss or link to adult content of a [digital nature *only*](https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/863xcj/new_addition_to_sitewide_rules_regarding_the_use/). Any content referring to “paid services involving physical sexual contact” will immediately be removed.
This sucks, obviously, but if you have alternative revenue streams like selling video commissions or Snapchat access, it may be better to keep something up rather than losing your entire fan community.
You may also want to delete messages, but keep in mind that these messages will still exist in the other person’s inbox. Which leads us to another point — and here is an admin saying it outright in a thread about message deletion:
That’s right. They “generally don’t delete things”. Even when a company specifically claims that your account will be permanently deleted, be skeptical. Don’t expect this to actually make things go away. Your tweets may be cached in other places. Reddit keeps everything and just flags things so they don’t show publicly.
As for other sites, if you’re using Facebook, my personal advice would be to get off there as soon as possible. In my personal opinion, the risks with Facebook go far beyond the possibility of losing your profile. They use tracking cookies, among other methods, to build insanely complex “advertising profiles”—basically, repositories of personal information that link you, geolocations to do with you, websites you visit, etc, all together. Here’s a link if you want to permanently delete your account. Your Facebook may be more important to you than mine was, but it’s hard for me to have advice about “cleaning it up” when the platform itself is so problematic.
Your other option there is to again, try not to use any key phrases you think someone might search for, and remember that nothing is private to admins. They can see your messages, they can see private group activity. A private group is NOT a private group, if that group is on Facebook.
It’s hard for me to have specific directions for Facebook, since when I’ve tried to create new pages for my work persona (as a “porn star”), Facebook has shut down my account in the process of creating it (without a readily apparent appeal option) after I’d put my name in.
As far as other sites, like Tumblr, Imgur, Gfycat, etc. you may want to clean those up as well. You can try using url searches to find specific tags on your Tumblr:
We’re not trying to cover anything up here or delete evidence or anything sketchy. Rather, our only goal here can be to try and anticipate new terms of service changes and bring our accounts “in line” rather than lose them entirely. We’re counting on site admins seeing this as a good faith effort and, subjectively, allowing us to stay.
Think this a fucked up amount of power over the freedom of speech for some random unseen tech company cubicle farm worker looking over hundreds of accounts each day? Yeah, it might be.
That’s basically it. I guarantee that this is important to do, or be sure what terms will be important. And I hate that we even have to think about self-censoring. But if you are looking for a way to look through your tweets or Reddit comments quickly, here’s one way to do it. I hope it’s helpful!