Wait – what happened? And what’s next?

This week the Senate moved the House bill (FOSTA) to the floor for brief debate. Here’s what that means and what we learned:

  • The movement of things was/is up to Mitch McConnell (R, Senate Majority Leader).
  • The Senate is going to take up the House version of the bill, which has BOTH bad elements. Previously, the Senate version of the bill (SESTA) only included the expansion of liability – which would create the chilling effect for websites around advertising. The House version had that AND creates a whole new crime around facilitation/promotion of prostitution.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, who wrote the 230 exemption in the Communications and Decency Act and had previously been the only one holding the bill, proposed two amendments. The first is about exempting companies who have an automated review system from liability if they miss something – but doesn’t cover real-people reviewers. The second is giving $20m to the DOJ for prosecutions of websites.
  • The bill is scheduled for a vote after another debate next Monday (which means, depending on the length of that it could be Tuesday).

We’re going to be holding two calls in the coming week – one on Thursday, March 22 at 7:30pm EST and one on Sunday, March 25 at 4:30 EST. It’ll be the same information, there are two to make it more accessible. If you’d like to join, we just ask a quick RSVP here. All the questions are optional, and please use whatever info you feel comfortable sharing. We want to share some updates, including the impact that this has already had, and thoughts on next steps.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication.

Liberation means you don’t have to be silenced.(Toni Morrison)

March 12: What’s coming this week

The work that’s been happening is absolutely amazing – the tweeting, writing, and calls have been absolutely overwhelming, and sex workers are being heard! The bill is now in the stage where a member of the Senate can call it to the floor for debate. Based on the conversations we’ve been having with staffers, there is an expectation that it will be called this week. (Turns out the banking bill is taking a little longer than expected to negotiate – thanks, Sen. Warren!) That means it’s still good to call your Senators because there’s still time for them to vote no, ask questions and question everything they’ve been told about this bill (script below). We don’t have a firm “IT WILL GO TO THE FLOOR THIS DATE” yet, but as soon as we hear, so will you!

If it does hit the floor this week and pass, please note that it doesn’t go into effect that day. After this, there is a conference process where FOSTA (the House bill) and SESTA (the Senate bill) are turned into the same language, and¬† then have to be sent back to each body to get a thumbs up. Then it’s off to Trump’s desk.

We also have heard that people are really looking for more information on safety, rights and how to keep engaged on this week. There will be community debrief calls coming down the pipe to hear more about what’s going on, ask questions, and give whatever feedback you think is helpful. In the meantime, check out the contact page on here to shoot us a note.

This has been an amazing effort and people are taking notice. This bill is an egregious violation, but it is also an opportunity to mobilize. The door has been cracked open from the years of tireless work of activists and organizers, and every phone call nudges it open a little more. Thank you for your efforts, your phone calls, your relentless demand for dignity, and your hope.

(Art courtesy  of Mia Little, you can find her at Twitter (@Lovemiali on Twitter or @lovemsmia_ on IG!)

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Survivors Against SESTA is a coalition of current and former sex workers, people who have experienced exploitation and trafficking, dancers, hustlers, allies, partners, family members and community members. We are survivors, and for many of us, the sex trade, and online work in particular, have been central to our survival. Many of us know the precarity of survival, and all are committed to ending exploitation in the sex trade. Many of us know the weight of having to trade sex in experiences which challenge notions of consent. While our experiences vary, our message is the same: Instead of alleviating the circumstances which make people vulnerable to trafficking, closing online platforms which those in the sex trade use to stay safe compromises our survival, exposes people trading sex to more violence, isolation, HIV/STI transmission and promotes the stigma.