The modern queer liberation movement began 51 years ago with the Stonewall Riots, where Black and Brown LGBTQ+ consensual sex workers and homeless youth demanded a space to congregate and freely express themselves. Today, the internet is the quintessential refuge for this community to work safely and share vital survival tactics. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote on the EARN IT Act, a death blow to internet privacy, and the end of needed online mediums the most marginalized LGBTQ+ communities rely on to survive. Like its predecessor SESTA/FOSTA, which has already endangered countless consensual LGBTQ+ sex workers, preventing the passage of the EARN IT Act is a matter of life or death for our community.

Well-connected advocates claim the “Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technology Act” will combat online child exploitation. In reality, it gives Attorney General William Barr and his office carte blanche authority to establish coercive guidelines that will force online platforms to moderate and censor content. Further, Barr wants to use EARN IT to coerce platforms to create backdoors for law enforcement to access encrypted data. This will destroy any sense of privacy that marginalized communities have to live free of intrusion from law enforcement. If online platforms do not follow Barr’s guidelines, they could lose their liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which would make them susceptible to lawsuits. To avoid liability, many platforms will simply ban all sex-related content and communications.

LGBTQ+ sex workers create online networks to keep fellow community members safe, minimize harms, and fight exploitation. I know, because I was a young queer sex worker before becoming an attorney, and I now work alongside many sex workers on advocacy efforts. EARN IT, like SESTA, which many lawmakers now regret, is one of the most pernicious attacks on the community I’ve seen, and passing this law would be an abrogation of allyship with queer people for any lawmaker that supports this bill. LGBTQ+ young people are up to eight times more likely than their peers to trade sex for survival for a multitude of reasons, including employment discrimination, housing instability, for sexual liberation, and the many existing biases transgender community members encounter. Thus, being pro-LGBTQ+ requires recognizing the humanity and needs of queer and trans sex workers. This is a priority for countless queer advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU. Simply put, elected officials cannot be both pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-EARN IT.

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Vulnerable LGBTQ+ Sex Workers Targeted Again by Politicians by Jared Trujillio

Published July 1, 2020