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

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:

Dancing and Disability: A Workplace Primer

(Photo by Du R Maciel via Flickr)
(Photo by Du R Maciel via Flickr)

Disability is the reason that I’m no longer a dancer.  Occasionally, I’d fool myself and go back to work for a while, and then remember why I can’t do it anymore.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Dancing is hard on the body – and for my body, it’s particularly difficult.  I’m having a hell of a time with chronic pain, and as it stands right now, it’s painful when I walk or drive. Thinking I can dance an eight-hour shift these days is an exercise in self-delusion.

I’m Mel, formerly known as Valkyrie.  I started dancing when I was 20, and I retired this year.  I’m bipolar, and I’m also physically disabled.  I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  My joints are very easily dislocated, and I have issues with back and neck misalignment, dislocations, subluxations, moderate to severe chronic pain, and chronic fatigue.  Think major arthritis and a hand tremor, and that’s the reality of the body I’m living in.  I should mention that I am about to turn 31, and none of these conditions are readily apparent unless I talk about them, or unless I’m visibly wearing braces.  

Disability is pretty common in the sex work industryoverwhelmingly, invisible disability.  Many sex workers choose sex work because they can pick their own hours.  The ability to earn high amounts of money in a short period of time really helps conserve spoons/limited energy, which is particularly helpful when dealing with a painful condition.  Many dancers, models, cam girls, and full-service workers suffer from chronic pain or physical limitations.  Mental illness is also very common; I’ve personally run into people with PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and at least one sociopath (who, lest you get the wrong idea, is a friend of mine and a wonderful person, all stereotypes to the contrary).  Mental illness can be disabling to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon circumstances.

I have some tips for those of us who are dealing with disability. Then I’ll be discussing disabled customers and how we can interact with them in a way that’s good for both them and us.

A Review Primer

Screenshot of review on Punter.net, the main escort review site for the U.K.
Screenshot of review on Punter.net, the main escort review site for the U.K.

The following is a quick guide to review practices and terminology across different fields and even countries, compiled by Tits and Sass editors and contributors including Jemima, Lori Adorable, and others.

Escort Reviews in the US: Though there are several popular American venues for reviews, one site in particular (The Erotic Review, better known as TER) has established clear dominance in visibility and popularity. Its insistence upon assigning numbers to a provider’s appearance and the customer’s overall experience have led to lists of highest “ranked” escorts across the country and within each major city. Many escorts advertise with this information (“Ranked in the TOP TEN of escorts nationwide”) while even more advertise with encouragements to “check out my reviews.” Because reviews are such a large part of escort marketing in both urban and exurban areas of the States, escorts may solicit write-ups from clients, write their own positive ones under a fake account, incentivize good reviews with discounts, or even pay someone to praise them in review form. (Review writers for hire will often spam escort email accounts with their own rates.) Despite claims to the contrary, there is no fact-checking that goes into approving submitted reviews, and so false reviews are published with some regularity, both those portraying the escort positively and those attacking her as ugly, unpleasant, or dirty. There is no review board that prioritizes escort and client concerns equally; all are skewed to favor the client and escorts are often ignored or penalized for speaking out against rude customer attitudes, dangerous practices, or retaliatory reviews.

Though academics and civilian observers regularly treat reviews as an indoor work phenomenon, reviews are not limited to women advertising online or using indoor work spaces. For over a decade, men have traded review-type information online about street workers as well, even when they don’t know the woman’s name or regular location.

In Canada: Escort review sites are common in Canada, though it is possible to go through your entire career without using them. In big cities like Toronto, a hub for business travelers, using review boards to find an independent or agency escort is more common than in other parts of the country and many escorts use them as a marketing tool. In Ottawa, the capital, recommendation boards are also common, possibly because of the perceived privacy concerns of those involved in politics. In Vancouver and Calgary, smaller and less central cities, the boards contain a tight-knit community of reviewers and hobbyists, but men who travel there don’t seem to rely on reviews as heavily to find an escort.

A Guide to Hustling on Craiglist Without the Personals

R.I.P. Craigslist Personals.

To the readers of this post, let me say first: I’m sorry, and I sympathize. I’m displaced and down in the trenches with you. I’m a ‘lower-end’ full-service and fetish worker. My way of life got taken down with the personals section of Craigslist. It’s the only platform I have ever used, and I’m taking my platform back. In order to help my fellow workers in the trenches and fight this censorship, please allow me to impart my tips and tricks on the loopholes of Craigslist.

One of the great things about this community of workers is our resilience and intelligence. The loopholes are always there, especially if you’ve got a sharp wit and way with words. I’ve been on the scene for seven years, and I’ve never met another fellow worker who was not also part entrepreneur and part lawyer. We are strong. We are powerful. We are a community. And Craigslist is no match for us.

The first major thing to remember about Craigslist is that the market is still there. Clients will always be there.

What’s Your “Real” Name?

Janice Cable

Google is becoming like that irritating customer who thinks he’s so clever for figuring out that stripper probably really isn’t named Fantasia, what with asking people, “No, really, what’s your real name?” Welcome to our world, online handle users! Choosing a work name is one of the first things nearly every sex worker does when entering the business. My name isn’t really Bubbles, Kat’s driver’s license says something else, and Charlotte wasn’t given that name at birth. We all have different reasons for using other identities online from the frivolous (to bitch about work without trouble) to the very serious (malevolent stalkers).

One of our own contributors, chelsea g. summers, has battled with serious online harassment. She’s “come out” under her real name as part of a project that hopes to demonstrate the importance of pseudonyms, the My Name Is Me site, that uses personal stories to illustrate the importance of retaining control over what name you use online.

That site/project came about in response to the (admittedly spotty) enforcement of the use of “real names” on Google Plus. One of the reasons Twitter is my favorite social network is how it allows users freedom to present themselves as they wish. Facebook and Google Plus require more constant vigilance about your privacy settings and who you friend. Maintaining a presence on those sites while protecting your privacy requires a constant battle with ever-changing visibility settings and name requirements.

My Name Is Me has a dedicated category for sex workers. Artist Molly Crabapple describes how she started using her name while working as a nude model, and unlike Janice, chooses to only identify herself that way today, as should be her decision to make. We’re willing to make a deal: You don’t ask us what our real names are, and we’ll put up with the occasional troll, sock puppet, or middle-aged man posing as an escort blogger in order to keep whatever degree of privacy, safety, and anonymity we can still maintain online.