Rep. Ro Khanna Says FOSTA/SESTA ‘Criminalized Online Sex Work’

In September, Democratic House member Ro Khanna announced that he planned to introduce a bill that would require an official study of how the 2018 FOSTA/SESTA law has endangered the lives and livelihoods of sex workers. On Monday of this week, Khanna repeated that pledge, adding that the effect of the law has been to “criminalize online sex work.”

Khanna, as a second-term representative from Fremont, California, represents much of Silicon Valley. Despite representing many of the big tech companies that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has pledged to “break up,” Khanna serves as co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

But Khanna would appear to also differ from Sanders when it comes to the FOSTA/SESTA law. The law scaled back protections for internet platforms that include content posted by third parties. The freedom to post third-party content has been the foundation of online communications. But the law rolled back that protection in the name of curtailing online “sex trafficking.”

Sanders voted in favor of that law, as did all of the Democratic candidates who were serving in Congress last year. 

In addition, Sanders has not committed to supporting decriminalization of sex work, most recently saying that he still needs to “discuss” the issue. 

But on Monday, via his Twitter account, Khanna said that the FOSTA/SESTA law “criminalized online sex work.” He also said that the law “suppressed free speech.”

Khanna was one of only 25 members of Congress who voted against the law, which passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly.  

“Prior to SESTA-FOSTA, sex workers used websites to screen clients. Now those sites are illegal, and sex workers can’t take safety measures like screening a potential client’s social media, prearranging a public meeting spot, or sharing their location with friends,” Khanna wrote on Twitter.  

“We need a better understanding of how the shutting down of these websites has endangered sex workers,” the Silicon Valley rep added

Khanna said that his bill will call for the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of FOSTA/SESTA. But Khanna still did not give a date for when he plans to introduce the bill.

Photo By Web Summit / Wikimedia Commons


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