Melissa Gira Grant Profile picture
Mar 14, 2018 86 tweets 42 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Behind #SESTA is a nearly 20 year old coalition of lobby groups seeking to eradicate sex work. Meet them – and their grassroots opposition:…
Pushing #SESTA? @WorldWEUS, an anti-sex work group formed by @CATWIntl; religious right org @ncose; @IAmJaneDoeFilm Director @marymazzio.

Against? Grassroots sex worker activists; plus @TransEquality and @NCLRights; also @genderhealth @iwhc @ACLU @EFF…
#SESTA, a bill the Senate is considering this week, and what's at stake: here's what @marginalutilite and @KathaPollitt told me.…
The pro-#SESTA coalition has now got @ManhattanDA Cy Vance on board:
#SESTA supporter and co-sponsor: @SenBlumenthal, who has targeted online sex work ads since he was CT AG. When AG's pushed Craigslist to ends its Erotic Services ads, they created a demand for Backpage.…
Tonight, several pro-#SESTA advocates are at a UN Commission on the Status of Women event promoting the legislation. Why are they lobbying CSW attendees at the UN? Because this is not just about US law, but a symbolic and global battle against sex work.…
Themes so far are the same as have informed UN conversations on trafficking going back to 1999: an attempt to link trafficking to international organized crime networks. New are claims trafficking is the fastest growing crime. And no discussion of human rights.
Someone might want to brief Cy Vance on US policy: at tonight's UN event, he told UN CSW participants what would really demonstrate commitment to trafficking is if the US had a dedicated government position on trafficking. We do – and we have since TVPA passed in 2000.
Behold, it's in the State Department:
#SESTA moves forward: debate on the Senate floor tomorrow. My backgrounder:…
A meta-#SESTA coverage moment: here’s what I’ve seen go down on the part of those promoting the legislation and which has got scant attention elsewhere:
This fight against “online sex trafficking” started with Craigslist more than a decade ago. And it’s led by some of the same elected officials:
But it goes back even further: to the lobbying efforts of groups like CATW, who want to collapse the legal distinction between prostitution and trafficking:
For groups like CATW, #SESTA is just one part of a global campaign to criminalize the sex trade out of existence.
These groups aren’t particularly powerful in a movement sense, but they are influential in some significant ways. They’re specifically courting US prosecutors.
That was Manhattan DA Cy Vance yesterday at his own pro-#SESTA press conference. He appeared again last night at a UN event alongside to promote the legislation. But Cy Vance can’t actually enforce #SESTA. So what’s going on?
#SESTA is part of a longer-term strategy by groups like CATW, along with the Texas oil money backed group Demand Abolition, to shape prosecutors’ position on sex work and law enforcement.
The truth is, the US already has some of the most punitive anti-sex work laws on the planet. These groups want to create more demand for their use. Sex work moving online is providing them with an opportunity.
One last thing: look at #SESTA coverage before the House voted on its companion bill, #FOSTA, a few weeks back. The opposition reported on was solely tech companies.
Look at the last two weeks of #SESTA stories. The opposition story is shifting rapidly – survivors of trafficking and sex workers’ opposition is getting reported now. Yet the #SESTA supporters refuse to address it.
And in fact, you are more likely to see those survivors and sex workers quoted in stories now than the lobbyists and lawyers who back #SESTA. Which is another major shift.
But my eye is also on the people pushing this legislation and their long game. That’s a lot more than #SESTA. And more on that in the weeks to come.
Senate debate on #SESTA is kicking off shortly. Get up to speed:…
Brace for pro-#SESTA sketchy figures today, like claiming trafficking is on the rise based on phone calls to a Federally-funded hotline. About the group behind that hotline: they can't clearly define trafficking themselves:…
In introducing debate, @SenateMajLdr claims that trafficking "has moved from the street corner to the smartphone" due to CDA 230.

- CDA 230 passed in 1996. Smartphones didn't hit the US for 10 more years.
- Policing was the key reason sex work became less visible on the street.
Debate on #SESTA is on the agenda for this morning-ish, stay tuned.…
Introducing #SESTA debate, @senrobportman calls trafficking "a stain on our national character." Repeats @SenateMajLdr claim that trafficking had increased "EIGHTFOLD" – based on calls to a hotline, not criminal cases, or even cases vetted by qualified service providers.
Next, @senrobportman says #SESTA and "this issue" is "not bipartisan, but really *nonpartisan*"
It is clear from @senrobportman's intro to #SESTA debate that this bill is about one thing and one thing only: shutting down Backpage, despite SESTA proponent @marymazzio's claims yesterday at her press conference with @ManhattanDA.
And now @senrobportman shouts out @marymazzio's film, I AM JANE DOE, and its story of a mother who found her missing daughter on Backpage. "That story tells you how evil these websites are," Portman adds.
Telling the story of a woman who had advertised on Backpage and was murdered, @senrobportman says her mother has "joined this fight in her honor." (Sex workers have been pushing for years for law enforcement to take sex workers' murders seriously. They are not asking for SESTA.)
Prosecutors are telling us they want #SESTA, says @senrobportman. Says DA's across the country are very involved on this. Remember this:
On those sketchy stats:
#SESTA, the discourse: anti-sex workers' rights lobby group, @WorldWEUS, is spending their pro-#SESTA energy trying to discount sex worker and survivor voices…
Why? Especially when by all accounts they have the Senate votes to pass the legislation they want, and when senators are largely ignoring sex workers? For groups like @WorldWEUS, #SESTA is a referendum on sex work. For people who trade sex, it's a matter of present-day survival.
#SESTA is a referendum on sex work, case in point – from @WorldWEUS ally on the religious right, @NCOSE:
(Apologies for the drop off in updates. There has been no further #SESTA action. However @lisamurkowski (R-AK) is now talking about the Iditarod. Here, in honor of your continued attention, are some very good boys:)
(Sorry to leave this with the huskies, but there isn't much to report except rumors. Actually let's do some rumors...)
This is true: what the Senate is debating – technically – is #FOSTA.…
There's some Wyden amendments coming to #FOSTA-#SESTA.
There hasn't been much floor debate today on #SESTA. Here's @senrobportman's remarks:
And here's @SenateMajLdr's remarks on #SESTA from (what was supposed to be) today's floor debate:
Whatever the Wyden amendments are, the pro-#SESTA groups aren't into them (though not clear if even they know what they are?):
Being extremely gossipy now: what is Bill Gates doing on the Senate subway on #SESTA day? (He was in town to meet Trump, tbh)
Cloture, again (now that it's #FOSTA advancing, and #SESTA is...???)
He just.... tweeted it out. #SESTA #FOSTA
#SESTA supporter: @Polaris_Project, who run the Federally funded hotline cited as evidence of incidence of trafficking (it’s not) by SESTA’s backers in Congress:
US gov has thrown millions at this hotline for a decade plus. Every year the hotline says trafficking is worse. Have yet to see a congressional hearing on why.
#SESTA opponent: @ACLU
#SESTA supporters, now getting more calls from reporters asking about sex workers’ concerns:…
Sex workers are more or less stuck w social media for conveying concerns on #SESTA to their elected representatives
#SESTA supporters: @SharedHope, who just sent this fundraising mailer out while the legislation is being debated in the Senate
#SESTA supporters: Dr... Oz?
Looking back over the #SESTA supporters now a day from the Senate vote, and...? It’s DC lobbyists, religious right groups, comedians, and now tv doctors. Not even Lena Dunham put her name on this one.
Meanwhile, the #SESTA opposition has come in two waves: the tech industry wave (mostly disintegrating), and the health/rights wave (which was quiet at first)
Despite claims of bipartisanship or “bitter enemies agreeing on one thing” (see: Pollitt), the pro-SESTA orgs are largely already united not only in opposition to trafficking, but opposition to the rights of sex workers.
It’s not a moral panic if it’s been going on for twenty years.
#SESTA supporters: The... Fraternal Order of Police
Late night #SESTA thoughts: maybe Sheryl Sandberg throwing support at it, despite its gutting off CDA 230 (which internet companies fought to protect), was in some way informed by what she was learning about Facebook & Cambridge Analytica
That is, the winds were blowing from Congress to “do something” about tech companies. (Also: Wyden demanded Facebook respond re: Cambridge Analytica on the day of this week’s #SESTA cloture vote.)
Senate is set to vote on #SESTA (for real) today. Powerful reflection here from an advocate:
#SESTA votes today:
#SESTA, the discourse: DC lobbyists v... “camgirls”?
What’s striking about CATW, the lobby group who hired Gaetan, is they do no direct support or advocacy for people who have been trafficked – yet they disqualify those who do *and* those who have been trafficked, if they disagree w CATW.
There is a big difference between groups who do frontline support to people who are trafficked – who largely oppose #SESTA – and groups like CATW who exist primarily to lobby.
(Also, no idea why it’s acceptable for a lobbyist for an ostensibly feminist org to use “camgirl” sneeringly. Let’s be real: lobbyists are wielding more power re: #SESTA than even thousands of camgirls... who may end up losing safer workspaces online if it passes...!)
On the whole sneering-at-camgirls thing
Further to DC lobbyists sneering at camgirls:
For real, given how social media marketing rules all, basically every sex worker has to be employ some camgirl labor these days (likewise, what are lifestyle vloggers doing if not camming-and-branding?)
But I think this whole thing started (allow me this) because an editor at the Guardian insist I disclose my sex work history when they profiled me ahead of my book. I refused: they pulled “camgirl” from Wikipedia.
Then anti’s trying to discredit my reporting started flinging “camgirl” at me as some kind of insult. Truth be told, outside of two shows, I never charged any money when I was a camgirl! It had next to zero to do with my actual income/experience in sex work.
By contrast, I spent more time writing this thread than I spent earning money as a camgirl...
Anyway blame the Guardian for relying on Wikipedia instead of doing some reporting, thereby fueling a meme spread by people who also believe there’s a Soros-funded pimp lobby
Camgirls didn’t deserve this and we don’t deserve camgirls
Anyway – let’s watch some CSPAN. #SESTA debate in the Senate coming shortly.
Opening Senate session today, @SenateMajLdr says #SESTA vote may move up on the agenda today, to accommodate safe travel due to snow
Earlier this week, the live feed may as well have been frozen on this screen. I'd be surprised if there's much more debate on #SESTA today.…
#SESTA visual aids: this faceless... woman?
Up giving the same #SESTA speech now: @senrobportman. His highlight reel: "ruthless efficiency of the internet," "bipartisan," "evil websites," "selling people online," "eager to prosecute but can't," "common sense targeted bill," "both sides of the aisle"
Now @johnthune, calling out faith-based organizations who support #SESTA, along with law enforcement.
Now @SenBlumenthal up to argue for #SESTA, holding up a photo of a woman who was killed by someone who found her Backpage ad. "Her voice could not be heard, but her mother came to our committee... her story helped us achieve unanimous approval [in committee]."
Here's one of the first pieces I wrote about Blumenthal and his fight against online sex work ads, filed two weeks shy of *a decade ago*…

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More from @melissagira

Sep 16, 2018
Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune (accurately, afaik) reported that one victim was a trans woman, and all were sex workers. AP could be misgendering and/or could be doing the usual, denying sex workers womanhood.
Anyway before you share a viral tweet, however we’ll-intentioned, check out the original feed, and the related reporting 🌈 the more you know 🧚🏻‍♂️
Read 9 tweets
Aug 6, 2018
A story I uncovered for this dive into nearly two decades of anti-trafficking politics: in 2015, Hillary Clinton told a private activist meeting that she supported decriminalizing sex work, which she says she understood as distinct from human trafficking.…
That is to say: on sex workers’ rights, Hillary Clinton was to the left of even her most ardent supporters. And to my knowledge, none of them nor any journalist got her on the record on her position during the 2016 campaign.
When Sen. Wellstone was killed, the senate lost one of few voices who did not conflate human trafficking and sex work, one that was able to sway the President.…
Read 5 tweets
Jun 21, 2018
With a group of families who have entered the NYC Federal building housing ICE, to occupy it
“Children belong with their families. Not behind bars or in cages.” Families with young children occupying ICE in NYC.
More families pouring in from the elevators to cram into the halls of ICE offices in NYC.
Read 11 tweets

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