Concerns regarding new precedents curbing free speech & increases in electronic surveillance of adult worker communities.

On April 8th, a woman was arrested in Augusta, South Carolina  and charged with 21 prostitution counts solely based on the content of Backpage advertisements she had placed over a three month period this winter.

Sex Workers Outreach Project

[SWOP-USA] is deeply concerned by the act of levying multiple prostitution charges against a woman solely based on the content of online adult service advertisements placed from her IP address. “This case demonstrates that the police are seeking to track down and arrest people simply for posting advertisements, without evidence of any illegal actions having taken place,” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA board president says. “This is not only of great concern for the thousands of people posting their own erotic services listings in the United States, but should also raise alarm bells for advocates of free speech, surveillance accountability, and sexual freedom as well.”

SWOP-USA will be following the case, which has a preliminary court date scheduled for April 26th.

Ad content mentioned in this cases charging documents also bring up a problematic, widespread practice of discriminating against clients of color across the adult industry. This is often rationalized through common and harmful racial stereotypes. As sex workers, we can all work within our communities to break down racialized biases we hold, educate ourselves and each other, and work to view the people we interact with on an individualized basis. Discussions naming and breaking down racism and bias are already happening in our communities, privately as well as in blogs and public discussion forums, and we encourage continued participation in and prioritization of these important conversations.

SWOP-USA also encourages individuals engaged in legal forms of adult work to take note of increasing surveillance used against sex worker communities and recognize that online speech, even if not connected with illegal activity, may result in arrest. The following resources may be useful to individuals engaged in legal forms of adult work:

Technology Privacy & Security Webinar for Sex Workers

Red Light Legal: There’s No Such Thing As A ‘Safe’ Escort Ad