On Thursday, July 19, at 4 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to put enforcement of FOSTA on hold during the pendency of its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. The hold is needed, in
part, to allow plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a sex worker advocacy group, to organize and publicize its annual conference, held August 2-5.
FOSTA , or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But despite its name, FOSTA attacks online speakers who speak favorably about sex work by imposing harsh penalties for any website that
might be seen as facilitating prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. In Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. U.S. , filed on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage
therapist, EFF maintains the law is unconstitutional because it muzzles constitutionally protected speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces speakers and platforms to censor themselves.
Enforcement of the law should be suspended because the plaintiffs are likely to win the case and because it has caused, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, EFF co-counsel Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine will
tell the court at a hearing this week on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Because of the risk of criminal penalties, the plaintiffs have had their ads removed from Craigslist and censored information on their websites.
Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation has censored publication of information that could assist sex workers negatively impacted by the law. FOSTA threatens Woodhull's ability to engage in protected online speech, including livestreaming and live
tweeting its August meeting, unless FOSTA is put on hold.
Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. heard Woodhull's request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from
remaining in effect until the group's lawsuit, but did not issue a judgement. Nor did he announce a date when he would issue a ruling.
According to one account from inside the courtroon, Leon sounded skeptical that the law had actually caused harm to the plaintiffs in the case.
Supporters of the US internet censorship law FOSTA were supposedly attempting to
target pimps and traffickers, but of course their target was the wider sex work industry. Hence they weren't really interested in the warning that the law would make it harder to target pimps and sex traffickers as their activity would be driven
Anyway it seems that the police at least have started to realise that the warning is coming true, but I don't suppose this will bother the politicians much.
Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger right at the
shutdown of Backpage:
The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD's vice unit, have just dried up. The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police's best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier this year.
We've been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down. I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.
With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story. Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There's a ton of evidence at a crime scene. Now, since [Backpage] has
gone down, we're getting late reports of them and we don't have much to go by.