Surveillance had been a fact of life for sex workers wherever they have faced prohibition. Only two elements, communication and association, can differentiate between commercial and personal sex, criminal enforcement of prostitution laws have necessarily meant targeting the speech and affiliation of perceived sex workers. Enforcement of this nature is facilitated by profiling, institutional bias, and broad overreaching policies that fundamentally violate individual human rights. This has included condoms as evidence, non-consensual medical screenings, and targeted harassment of black transgender women as well as license plate recording projects and stings that focus disrupting immigration or migrant workers.
For all of its risks, screening potential clients is safer over email than it is in person during a street based negotiation often in an isolated part of town. SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) comes at a time when compelling research demonstrates that Craigslist resulted in a 17% drop in the female homicide rate. SESTA will also put victims at risk by delaying their identification and recovery by eliminating a digital paper trail. Additionally, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a vital protection for a free internet. Subverting SESTA will create greater economic disparity between sex workers and ultimately empower pimps and agencies over independent providers.