Home Tools of the Trade Post-SESTA/FOSTA Self-Censoring for Twitter, Reddit, and other Social Media

Post-SESTA/FOSTA Self-Censoring for Twitter, Reddit, and other Social Media

In case you need to disappear yourself before the state does it for you.

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:

http://example.tumblr.com/tagged/TAG (newest first)
https://example.tumblr.com/tagged/TAG/chrono (oldest first)

Here’s a guide to deleting all your Tumblr posts.

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!

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Liara Roux is a sex worker, independent adult media producer and director, a political organizer focused on freedom of expression for adult workers online, and an advocate for decriminalization and protection of consensual adult activity including queer and sex worker rights and safety worldwide. Liara is known online and in the press for her interest and expertise in online content creation, cryptocurrencies, virtual reality media, and a variety of stories to do with her projects. She has been interviewed by or had projects featured by the press in Vice and Motherboard, Playboy, Engadget, Buzzfeed News, The Daily Dot, IB Times, YNOT News, BBC Technology, among others and on blogs such as The Mary Sue, Kotaku, Pandora Blake, ErosBlog and Fredzone. Her work has screened in Berlin during the Berlin Porn Film Festival. She has been publicly involved with adult media creation and sex work as Liara Roux for around four years and is now producing and directing her own videos. Before Patreon started removing pornography, she was one of the most popular adult content Patreon creators. Liara is currently re-launching her media site as LiaraRoux.xxx, with subscriptions available to the public in April 2018. Liara has done over 200 photo and video shoots since 2015, and around 100 of these will be available at the LiaraRoux.xxx archive upon launch. Along with the artist Aubrie Haze, Liara is writing a comic titled Adventures of Liara Roux. It’s currently in its second story and can be read at www.AdventuresOfLiaraRoux.com. In 2017, Liara organized and penned an Open Letter to Patreon along with a working group. The open letter, available at www.OpenLetterToPatreon.com, was a response to Patreon’s new policies to do with adult content and strove to advocate for vulnerable creators in danger of being removed from the online funding platform. In 2018, a film called “GFE” that Liara worked on (and was the only star of) was screened at SXSW without her consent, sparking fan reaction, media attention and legal action by Liara’s representation. She is currently involved in legal negotiations to do with the film. When not traveling for work, Liara lives bicoastally in the United States and has 4 black rescue cats. She’s on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and has a fan community on Reddit. She also streams playing videogames on Twitch and has a profile with trailers for her films on Pornhub. Liara can be reached by email at Liara.Roux@gmail.com. She is represented by Austin Law Group in San Francisco, where Alex Austin can be reached for comment on relevant issues.

35 COMMENTS

  1. So comprehensive! Just a tiny note in case anyone is re-wording their website/making it private/etc: you might want to check on archive.org to see if your site has been saved on the Wayback Machine. They will take it down and stop archiving it if you’d like, you just have to email and ask. I found to be super helpful even in a slightly different political climate, just as further protection against obsessive “fans” and an easy way to retain a little bit of privacy.

    You can also take matters into your own hands directly, with robots.txt, which also I think prevents indexing by Google/search engine crawlers. I am kind of a tech idiot but you can read more here + elsewhere. https://www.fightcyberstalking.org/how-to-block-your-website-from-the-wayback-machine/ The robots thing will not affect previous versions of your site stored by Wayback Machine, though, so if that’s of concern you still have to email them.

  2. Thanks for addressing this issue. My subreddits /r/maleescorts and /r/sexworkerblogs got banned. One with no warning or explanation at all. the other with just a bot generated auto message. Here’s my communication with mods=

    This is the most recent message I sent to all admin=

    “could a human please reply? I’ve contributed a lot of time and effort to reddit and it would be nice if mods could take a few seconds to reply in person. not just a bot or a copy and paste please.”

    This is the bot mail I got when sexworkerblogs got banned=

    “r/sexworkerblogsImportant Update about your Sub
    expand allcollapse all

    [–]from landoflobsters[A] to /r/sexworkerblogs sent 1 day ago

    We want to let you know that we have made some updates to our content policy forbidding transactions for certain goods and services. Please review the post in r/announcements for specific details. Due to these changes and the nature of your sub, we want to inform you we are no longer able to keep your subreddit active. The subreddit will be banned effective immediately. Please also note that any attempts to reconstitute this community under an alternative subreddit would be a violation of our site-wide rules regarding ban evasion.”

    My response =

    permalinkreply
    [–]to landoflobsters[A] via /r/sexworkerblogs sent 1 day ago

    Hi,

    Could you please reinstate /r/sexworkerblogs and /r/maleescorts? The were banned with no warning or explanation.

    Because of SESTA?

    These subs were forums for sexworkers to talk to other sexworkers. There was nothing remotely resembling a transaction taking place on there.

    If there’s anything on the subreddits which is against reddits terms, please tell me what it is so I can remove it.

    If I need to exclude any specific content from the subreddit in future, please let me know what that is.

    I hope reddit doesn’t plan to ban all sexworkers and sexwork related subreddits. Sexworkers often struggle to network with other sexworkers, make friends in the industry and obtain information that can keep them safe. Legislation will not make sex work disappear. Banning our directories makes it harder to be independent and puts money into the hands of brothels, agencies and pimps ie often exploitative, dangerous and violent individuals linked to organised crime. Making any part of what we do illegal just makes it harder for sexworkers to get help when we are the victims of real crime. Banning forums denies us solidarity and support. Please don’t be a part of this kind of discriminatory, cynical and counter productive, reactionary prejudice against sexworkers.

    Regards,

    Oz

    ps why so inconsistent?

    /r/malesescorts got banned with zero modmail. when banning /r/sexworkerblogs I got the above, what appears to be a bot generated auto message but at least some notification. Other subreddits like /r/sexworkers got the opportunity to conform with whatever rules they were in violation of and stay open. /r/sexsells which exists for the sole purpose of sexworker transactions seems to have been ignored completely for censorship.”

  3. Sigh.. This is ridiculous. People actually doing criminal acts will just do the same thing that racist do when confronted with this – keep coming up with random emotes and/or code words to use to do business. The only people this will end up impacting is innocents, people talking about/writing fiction, or who the heck knows what else, and lastly those trying to do an honest, non-exploitative business (or even just legal, but by shear happenstance, including some jokers idea of what “code words” to look for, business).

    You would think people stupid enough to keep babbling, when ever gun violence comes up, “If we ban them only criminals will have guns!”, would be able to grasp the concept that the same thing applies to stuff on the internet too. But, nope, I think its pretty much by definition that they are incapable of getting it, or they wouldn’t keep trying to solve a problem that involves lack of oversight, no legal recourse, no regulation, and every other problem you get when you try to ban something, like “alcohol”, for example, using the most bloody ineffective, and destructive, methods possible.

    Mind, the people supporting so much of it are probably just annoyed that demanding stoning, or cutting off hands, would make them seem Muslim – instead of just intolerant, authoritarian, old testament Christians. Maybe we can scare them off with mixed fabrics and shell fish? lol

  4. There will always be some communication between hobbyists and providers on the net but it will be nothing like it was before this law. The money already was getting harder to get because of all the competition because it was so easy to become a online provider just post an ad and have a cell phone. Now with this law it will be 100 times worse, the money will be literally peanuts. Now we all will have to get regular jobs to survive. Also LE will be cracking down hard, real hard. LE is going to have a field day. They are going to lock up anybody using the net that they even suspect who is a provider or hobbyist and any forum, webpage or website that even remotely hints that providers and hobbyists are on will get deleted.

    Self-censoring and watching what you type and say so forums, accounts, posts, threads and websites will not get deleted maybe will work with some providers who are intelligent and careful but this WILL NOT work with the providers who are either stupid, functional retards, under the influence of alcohol and drugs etc etc. Unfortunately there are enough providers who will get reckless and are stupid who will get a new website or forum closed down very quickly. All LE has to do is arrest just one person for prostitution from that forum or site and they can get it shutdown. No one is risking going to federal prison for 10 years and if it involves 5 or more prostitutes a possible 25 years incarceration especially when the owner of that website platform and the servers is not making any money from ads.

    The ability to make the type of money off the net through ads and websites before this law will be a thing of the past. You also have a lot of people in the world who are informants and snitches. If gangsters, killers and people in the mob snitch you know that there will be hobbyists and providers who will snitch too. Then you have the people who will report and flag your FB or Twitter account some who are just jealous of you and then some who are on some anti-providing B.S.

    Pimps in the street are going to have a field day because this is going to push a lot of providers into the pimp controlled streets. A lot of women who will be the future new providers who don’t have the option of the net are going to be working for pimps in the street. It is so sad the pimps are going to rule the again.The days of successful independent providers are over.

    It is a very, very sad day I was literally crying my eyes out the last 3 days. I knew this was going to happen. We also will not have a voice we can no longer express ourselves over the net like we did before this law. A bunch of providers talking shop will be to risky for a platform or web server owner to take a chance that maybe a trafficked provider especially a minor might be on that forum or page. The website and web server owners can now be sued. If a 17 year old minor uses a website or social media platform to commit one act of prostitution they can sue them for millions. We might see a lot of people crying trafficking “victim” and sleazy lawyers try to set up website and social media platforms with million dollar lawsuits.

    They always said providers should have a exit strategy from the business when one wishes to retire. It is said that so many of us are being forced into retirement. I love this business and being a paid companion and GFE. I love to kiss, fuck and suck my clients and drink their cum. I love the power to be independent and tell pimps trying to recruit me online to fuck off. Now all that is gone we have lost our power to be financially successful independent providers where no man can call shots or tell me what to do.

    My partner and lover who is also a provider is just as sad as I am. She is looking into bartending and I am looking at a few different options. We saved a little bit of money but we will be broke in 3 or 4 months if we don’t get a job so it is time to get a job and we plan on eventually getting married. My partner and I have rights as lesbians now but not as providers. Good luck to all my provider sisters out there! I love you all!!

  5. Great, anything and everything can now be censored just because someone decided that they don’t like it. “Zero tolerance” may be closer to the end of the freedom of speech and that’s really a bad direction where we’re heading right now.
    What if tomorrow your images are going to be censored?
    Almost everything now is digitalized and you may be restricted to access your own personal data…

    I think that the intentions were good but the direction where we’re heading right now is not really a great one because it’s threatening the freedom of speech as I see it.

    • Freedom of speech is, for most of the people that support these sorts of laws (and the GOP, and false Democrats, for that matter), is exactly the same thing as, “freedom fighter” – the only thing they are concerned about protecting is their own freedoms. Anyone else, be it a protestor, a whistle blower, or anyone else that “inconveniences” them, or threatens their imaginary utopian world they want to make into a dysfunctional reality is, “not freedom”, or “American”, or, “a right”, etc.

  6. This SESTA/FOSTA thing has also spread its bull to electronic cigs subreddits. I also operated a sex workers subreddit for Brazil that got deleted. This Self-censoring must be a burden on admins, to say nothing about the nonsense of this whole situation.

  7. First off.. Its such a “burden” that I am sure you can still find subreddits for pick up artists, racists, etc., no problem. Mind you, the people who originally came up with reddit where, literally, losers, who found the code from some badly done Japanese message board and proclaimed, “We can be totally anonymous, while saying any scummy thing we want with this and complain about how no one else gets us, including girls!” No, seriously, I read an article on its founding via the old 4chan it branched off of in the first place, for various dubious reasons.

    Anyway, something occurred to me. Women in general would benefit from a server/service that let them openly discuss bad dates and what men in their lives you can trust or not. Which ones are abusive, etc. I have no idea if anyone has even tried to create a universal service for just women in general, which does this, but its *exactly* the same thing the boards that where taken down are intended to do for sex workers.

    THIS MEANS that if such sites do exist, the overreaching, draconian, not giving a damn what gets crushed or what its actually being used for, new laws could be used to shut every such place down, either out of fear that someone “may” be using them to discuss clients, not dates, or as a result of even one single person being caught on one who “is” a sex worker.

    This doesn’t just put sex workers in added danger, its so stupidly vague that it could put any women who try to use the internet to communicate with each other about bad experiences in the position of having to prove they are not talking about clients, instead of bad boy friends, effectively defining them as, “guilty until proven innocent”. And, I am ‘sure’ the courts are going to believe the women so much more with such an accusation against them, than they do when its anything from an assault case to full blown rape…

    Mind.. I would love to see the fight, if the targets had the money to fight it, from them going after such a site at all, but.. I don’t trust any of these self righteous scum to recognize the difference in their pursuit of imaginary enemies (those being the only ones they can find, since they are so bad at actually arresting real traffickers and pimps).

  8. Mostly getting new business from reviews since the fall, and almost entirely since this winter, I’m relieved that TER is still going, and another site is hosted elsewhere. Unfortunately, I can’t find out where the one with the most reviews is from, (or even see them since access is for reviewers only) just know that it also has information for Canada and Europe, I’m crossing my fingers there. I never got around to using CityVibe, am not on Reddit, nor Twitter. Craigslist I’d gotten my IP blocked from flagging and didn’t return with my new phone, having gotten accustomed to no longer having overwhelming replies in tandem with a low success rate, but still occasionally browsed men’s ads, so that’s unfortunate. Still, there’s so much I have to do! Get copies of my reviews, actually make a site and find a place to put it, and get myself out there as many places as possible. There was a great suggestion on Twitter, which I don’t have an account for, so I’m having trouble finding the woman’s suggestions, or I’d post it here. She said to get certified for things such as life coach, sex consultant, etc, and advertise that way. There’s even a discount on classes that will close very soon, $14 vs $200 each. Even with my unstable feast or famine/scrape by type existence, currently on the low side, I think I can swing at least one of them. I should have done it last week! Does anyone know who posted that, and which online school is offering this accreditation right now?

  9. We live in a scary time. I support SWers and used to be in the industry. Now as just a blogger we need to be concerned. Sites with sexual pictures including ones of toys are targeted also.

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