US Bills Could Spell Disaster for Crypto Sex Industry

Anyone who says crypto doesn’t have a real use case hasn’t been talking to sex workers.

Shut out of more mainstream payment methods, they’ve been among the first users of cryptocurrency, creating a symbiotic dynamic between the adult entertainment industryand blockchain technology that continues today. Since most erotic webcam platforms already use digital tokens of some type to pay performers, freelancers have shown a willingness to use bitcoin.

And the sex industry is keeping up with innovation – Playboy TV and Penthouse are already developing partnerships with the cryptocurrency startup Vice Industry Tokens (VIT), which has issued its own custom cryptocurrency to reward porn viewers and performers.

But that years-long trend could take a hit this week when the U.S. Senate votes on a wildly controversial bill package called FOSTA-SESTA (“Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” and “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act“).

Already, non-profits like the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) are speaking out on the bill, arguing, “No internet user, website operator, trafficking victim, law enforcement officer or other individual will be immune to the consequences of and fallout from this legislation.”

But the Center for Democracy and Technology is far from alone in its view.

Joining the CDT, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in their condemnation of FOSTA-SESTA is blockchain startup Spankchain, which sees the bills as enabling lawsuits against “whoever uses or operates” a interstate or foreign facility offering questionable adult content.

Spankchain co-founder Janice Griffith, an adult performer herself, told CoinDesk these bills could wreak havoc across their token ecosystem, saying:

“It will cause a problem for anyone involved in any kind of sex work. Producers can be in trouble for, ‘promoting prostitution,’ it could also potentially cause a problem for token holders… It’s not just porn, it’s an attack on freedom of speech. And it is going to trickle down.”

Basically, these laws make anyone who uses or operates a porn site liable if that site gets flagged for fishy content and isn’t restricted to one specific state.

This is problematic for anyone who talks online about prostitution, which is only legal in Nevada, or facilitates user-generated content. The adult entertainment industry is regulated, but stolen content and footage of real sex crimes can slip past moderators.

It gets especially tricky for platforms or services that use cryptocurrency because then token holders could be seen as having an active role in promoting, buying or profiting from the illicit activity – VIT, for example, records data on the engagement of porn viewers, from clicks to likes, paying users tokens for their personal information.

This means international sites with user-generated content, a crucial part of VIT’s business beyond enterprise partnerships, might soon be vulnerable to lawsuits if any content or chats are seen as “promoting” prostitution. Plus, users and platforms might be held liable if content involves a sex trafficking victim.

Likewise, if people talked about paying escorts on a cryptocurrency forum like Bitcoin Talk, theoretically, the forum itself could be targeted by a lawsuit.

Centralized liability

Some critics go so far as to argue the geographic restrictions in this legislation are absurd. The porn industry is in the middle of a technological renaissance, dominated by a shift to global audiences and traveling performers with strong personal brands.

Much like the cryptocurrency industry, entrepreneurs need to move freely for work. That doesn’t automatically make them sex trafficking victims.

Attorney Zoe Dolan, whose clients include several blockchain startups and unrelated defendants accused of sex crimes, told CoinDesk:

“If we are honest about ongoing trends away from centralized entities back toward individuals… Congress would probably do better to engage with technology companies and movements rather than pursue an adversarial approach that vests power in plaintiffs’ attorneys and prosecutors.”

And the consequences don’t stop there. Sex workers have also been outspoken about how these bills would make it harder to talk online about safety tips and personal experiences.

“Make no mistake, if these bills pass, sex workers will die,” adult performer Lorelei Lee told Motherboard. “The ability to share information quickly and widely in our community is the main way that we stay safe.” […]

Read Full: US Bills Could Spell Disaster for Crypto Sex Industry