Amicus Brief

September 13, 2022:

Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), joined by eleven other organizations working to ensure the health, safety, wellbeing, and human rights of sex workers and survivors of trafficking, filed a new Amicus brief supporting the appellants in a federal case challenging SESTA/FOSTA and its criminalization of protected speech.

Notice of Appeal

April 25, 2022:

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Eric Koszyk, Alex Andrews, and The Internet Archive joined together to file an appeal against Memorandum Opinion of March 29, 2022, which dismissed their motion for summary judgment of FOSTA.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Revives Woodhull’s Case

January 24, 2020:

The Court Orders That the Constitutional Challenge of SESTA/FOSTA Be Sent Back to the District Court for a Ruling on the Merits of the Case

The court found that two of the four plaintiffs in the case have adequate standing to pursue claims. Alex Andrews, through her website Rate That Rescue, adequately established an Article III injury-in-fact because she has alleged intention to engage in conduct with constitutional interest (involving speech).

Eric Koszyk, massage therapist, also established Article III standing. Because of SESTA/FOSTA, Craigslist “Therapeutic Services” shut down, directly negatively impacting Koszyk’s ability to find clients and make a living. In Koszyk’s case, there is also redressability if SESTA/FOSTA were to be repealed.

U.S. Reps. Khanna and Lee, Sens. Warren and Wyden Introduce the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act To Examine the Effects of SESTA

December 17, 2019:

Representatives Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee announce in the House, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden introduce in the Senate, the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act to examine the effects of SESTA.

The bill calls for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish empirical data on the risks sex workers face on a day-to-day basis as a result of SESTA.

Since its passage, there is no evidence that SESTA has reduced trafficking, while there is significant evidence that it causes increased violence and economic desperation. Additionally, the law has impeded law enforcement investigations into trafficking by obscuring these operations.

Khanna’s bill seeks to bring these disastrous consequences to light. In order to endorse this important step forward, please take the time to reach out to your state representative by visiting DSW’s Take Action page.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation Files a Federal Lawsuit To Challenge the Constitutionality of SESTA

June 28, 2018:

Representing the Internet Archive, Human Rights Watch, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, massage therapist Eric Koszyk, and Alex Andrews, and endorsed by human rights groups including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Prostasia Foundation for Child Abuse prevention, EFF challenges the criminalization of protected speech. 

On September 24, the suit is dismissed on the basis of lack of standing.

  • In this case, the courts did not feel that plaintiffs in the case met injury-in-fact requirements. Injury-in-fact is defined as either having suffered or imminently suffering injury—an invasion of a legally protected interest that is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent. Said injury can be financial or not. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove causation, traceable to the conduct being sued, and redressability, in that a favorable decision by the courts will redress the injury.
  • Because the suit was dismissed on a basis of standing rather than the merits of the case, the circuit court did not rule on whether or not the law violated first amendment rights.

SESTA Is Signed Into Law by President Trump

April 11, 2018:

In the weeks following the passage of the law, the federal government seizes, where many sexual service advertisements have migrated to different sections of the site. Sex workers are forced back onto the street, facing violence and increasing the power of exploitive pimps. Law enforcement is forced to abandon hundreds of open trafficking investigations that relied upon online evidence removed by the seizures. 

Congress Passes SESTA/FOSTA

February/March 2018:

A package of bills, entitled Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), incorporating the House version, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), passed the House and the Senate. SESTA/FOSTA modifies Section 230 to remove services providers’ immunity when dealing with civil or criminal crimes related to sex trafficking.

SESTA/‍FOSTA passed despite testimony from the Department of Justice, submitted to Congress in written form, that the act would make it more difficult for law enforcement to prosecute traffickers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a one-pager against the amendment.

The Federal Government Wages an Investigation Into

January 2017:

The Federal Government Wages an Investigation Into, the Largest Remaining Platform of Internet Advertisements for Sexual Services

Instead of Undergoing Investigation, Backpage Shutters Its Adult Services Page After Years of Resistance

The final report, published on January 8, 2017, was entitled “’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking.” The findings of this investigation have been referenced as the primary impetus for the passage of SESTA/FOSTA.

The investigation led to the arrests of Backpage founders James Larkin and Michael Lacey, as well as Carl Ferrer, who had purchased the website during the inquiry. The federal government has since seized Lacey and Larkin’s publishing assets. Read the full story, as featured in Wired.

A legal brief that challenges the federal government's claims in the case can be accessed here.