Press Release: Congress Advances EARN IT, Ignoring Sex Workers’ Continued Concerns

July 3, 2020

Sex Workers Warned You. You Didn’t Listen.

Hacking//Hustling, a collective of sex workers, survivors, and accomplices working on technology issues, are outraged by yesterday’s unanimous Senate Judiciary Committee vote, which moves EARN IT (“Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020”, S.3398) towards becoming law. EARN IT crystallizes that the devastation FOSTA-SESTA wreaked on our sex working community was intentional. EARN IT uses the same tactics to attempt to erase sex workers, communities of survivors, and harm reduction materials from the internet. EARN IT shows no regard for the negative impact on sex workers AND survivors.

Before SESTA passed, sex workers expertly predicted its impact. Sex workers knew that this law would lead to the deaths of our community members. Our predictions were proved correct with horrifying immediacy after the bill’s passage. Since then, sex workers have been the only ones documenting its impact and calling for a holistic approach to addressing violence. Our knowledge of online harm reduction and the impact of section 230 legislation is immense, yet still ignored. At this stage, our exclusion is active erasure.

Despite small, surface-level changes to the EARN IT Act, the bill:

  • Falsely declares FOSTA-SESTA a win that should be replicated.
  • Relies on a law enforcement-led commission of actors, who are best served by the erasure of sex workers online, to determine best practices for the internet (Sec. 3).
  • Disregards the health and safety of sex workers, prioritizing tech companies’ bottom lines instead (Sec 4(a)(4)).
  • Forces private companies to police themselves out of fear of liability to countless state laws, a process which incentivizes being overly broad instead of precise (Sec 5).
  • Offers a remedy only accessible to a tiny fraction of CSAM (child sexual abuse material) survivors (Sec 5).
  • Neglects to invest in preventing child sexual violence.
  • Incorrectly assumes that survivors and sex workers are two separate populations.

Survivors of Abuse Deserve Better

We need something new. We need to create spaces where solutions are developed by impacted communities and step away from prosecutors and policing as our only answer and lawsuits as our only recourse. Survivors—CSAM survivors, sex working survivors, queer survivors, incarcerated survivors, struggling survivors, survivors who are still angry, survivors who are at peace, and people who want to one day consider themselves survivors—should be leading this conversation.

Instead, Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Graham have purposefully created conditions under which impacted people will not only remain unsafe, but as with FOSTA-SESTA, be pushed into further marginalization and violence as well.

The backers of EARN IT champion FOSTA-SESTA as a win, they celebrate the removal of life-saving resources as a win. We are not collateral damage and these are not unintended consequences.

Congress continues to demonstrate their lack of regard for people in the sex trades. This is yet another bill that neglects and obfuscates actual violence prevention measures in favor of expanding the very criminalization and speech suppression that make marginalized people more vulnerable to violence in the first place.

What’s Next

In the coming months, Sen. Graham and Sen. Blumenthal will continue to celebrate the impact of FOSTA-SESTA and push EARN IT forward. At Hacking//Hustling, we’ll be trying to push back and share as much information as we can through:

  • A Legal Literacy Panel on Tuesday, July 7th at 7PM ET (with EARN IT updates that are accessible for impacted communities, not just lawyers).
  • A 3-part Digital Literacy Lunch Series on July 15th, 16th, and 17th from 12PM-1:30PM ET, where we will work to demystify the tools and platforms that we use to work and organize. It is our hope that through better understanding the technologies we use, we are better equipped to keep one another safe!
  • Planning additional Call-in Days with the House of Representatives and Senate (date TBD).
  • Creating more resources for harm reduction as we move on and off platforms.
  • Listening to you! If there is a gap in our programming, we welcome suggestions on what will best serve our diverse community at this time.

In the meantime, we want to focus this conversation on one thing: coming together as survivors and centering healing, acknowledgment, and community support. Below are just a few of the places where those conversations are happening as well as tools to begin creating those spaces for collective healing.

Hacking//Hustling and EFF have an archive of digital security trainings. If you feel like you need to take additional digital security steps, try doing so with the community. Together we can keep each other safer.

Survivor’s Agenda is a forming project from MeToo founder, Tarana Burke, and other anti-violence advocates, which looks to build collective power to end sexual violence. We encourage checking out their opening video describing the project and the toolkit on how to hold kitchen table conversations on sexual violence.

Pure Love highlights the voice of Ignacio Rivera, a Black Boricua Taíno, transgender, healer, artist, activist, mother, and self-identified magical Unicorn. Along with their daughter, Amanda Rivera, toddler-whisperer, assistant teacher, diva, bruja and self-identified mermaid, they keep it real. Pure Love is an honest, vulnerable and intimate talk show about creating sustainable relationships with our children, normalizing the sex talks, and shifting the culture of sexual abuse.

Generation Five is a collective from the Bay Area, which sought to use transformative justice to end child sexual abuse in five generations. They have resources for transformative justice approaches, understanding child sexual abuse, and resources for survivors. They have since closed, but their intellectual labor to change what we consider possible is foundational and invaluable.

Love with Accountability is a collection of essays from survivors of child sexual abuse, which explores how we can disrupt and end the inhumane child sexual abuse pandemic, humanely. The project also examines how the silence around child sexual abuse in the familial institution plays a direct role in creating a culture of sexual violence in all other institutions—religious, academic, activist, political, and professional. The book is a beautiful contribution to the discourse of healing from CSA (child sexual abuse) and the website contains resources, including links to collectives dealing with CSA.

Haymarket Books is determined to offer a political response to the crisis, believing that their mission to support struggles for social and economic justice is more vital than ever. In collaboration with their authors and a range of partners, they are organizing an ongoing series of events to respond both to the coronavirus crisis itself and maintain their collective political, cultural, and social life in a manner that fosters struggle, solidarity, and debate. Some of their upcoming events include: Policing Without the Police: Race, Technology, and the New Jim Code.