The news of last week sent me reeling. I should have been better prepared but other than assuming the bill would pass, I did nothing. So…I’ve done what many have done as far as my online work persona goes; and thought about things.

personal privacy

As someone who has touted the value of personal privacy for years, you should take steps on that front. Abine’s Delete Me service is not that expensive and very well worth it. If you can’t afford the fee, they show you how to do it on your own (it’s time-consuming). I bought their service a couple years ago and am extremely happy with it.

For years, I’ve recommended How to Stay Invisible and it’s still worthwhile when it comes to offline privacy. The Lifeboat Strategy is very expensive and informative, and best for those with a lot of money to protect. The website does have free information available. I’ve found the best online privacy resource yet to be Hiding From the Internet, written by a former FBI agent. And then there’s the very excellent A Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy, written by Violet Blue, who is very sex worker friendly.

All of the steps you’re taking to secure your business from FOSTA isn’t worthwhile if you haven’t tightened up the exposure of your personal information, IMO. The US is making this harder and harder to do. Sometimes it seems like the best solution is to just follow your website to another country!

TOR and bitcoin

I’m no expert here because I haven’t jumped into using either one yet. I have a VPN that I use and am considering others, but I haven’t yet gone all Dark Web yet. I use Vanilla Visa when I can, my actual credit card otherwise (though I’ll jump at something that offers cash over the counter or mailed money orders). Yeah, I know, my credit card transactions can be tracked. At some point, paranoia gets tiring. I’ve been doing this a long time.

For your questions regarding TOR and Bitcoin, I strongly suggest looking for other people who can explain it far better than I can and have actual experience with it. (I will very likely have experience with TOR soon, I’ve known about it for many years, I just haven’t done anything with it yet.)

what to do regarding your business

Though I started off following this guide, which is wonderful, I’ve veered off it somewhat. But that’s me and my own decisions. The guide seems to be accurate and for that, it’s very worthwhile.

The term “offshore” is tossed around. It merely means a country that is not your own country. It has nothing to do with oceans or even the US. For instance, someone in France would consider registering a .com domain at US-based GoDaddy to be an offshore domain.

your domain

Most of us online own .com domains. This is unfortunate because .com is a US extension domain. FOSTA allows the US to take it right out from under you, if they so choose to do. This means you need to get a new domain to keep your business going in case of the worst happening.

The strategy everyone recommends is to get a domain in a country where sex work is legal. You could go further and cross-reference that list of countries with research on the country’s free speech laws and how eagerly they cooperate with US authorities regarding free speech. Here is a list of domain extensions by country, and here’s a list of prostitution laws by country. I leave your free speech research up to you.

You have to register than domain with someone. Choose a non-US based registrar. Here’s that list.

This isn’t going to be cheap and for someone whose cash is short right now, I think that securing an offshore domain is where your FOSTA-prevention money should go. You can move web hosts very easily with a day or two of downtime (at most). A domain is your little piece of online real estate. Grab it while you can.

Since all of this is outside the US, you’ll need to use your real credit card, or Paypal or likely another form of payment that reveals your real info (most do allow for Bitcoin transactions). As far as I can tell, you can give the registrar whatever info you want for the domain but payment must be real if it’s not Bitcoin. No Vanilla Visa for this.

web hosting

There are a lot of offshore hosting options, in a lot of price ranges. There’s a super-cheap option that’s not more expensive than GoDaddy. There’s Red Umbrella hosting, which is made for US sex workers and isn’t cheap, but is a one-stop shop.

While you know your site’s needs and your budget best, I recommend getting hosting that has as much bandwidth as possible, allows addon domains, and allows WordPress. Uptime is important but don’t take their word for it, try to find uptime/downtime reports on their hosting.

Addon domains means you could buy your domain name in a couple different countries and point them to your host. Or you could host your .com and .[offshore domain] on the same host. This saves you money as long as you back up your websites off the host and onto your own computer/personal cloud.

I recommend installing WordPress because…duh. I’ve been a huge WordPress fan since 2005. I’m not sure I’ve bothered with anything else since. (WordPress.com is very different from installing a copy of WordPress on your own site. Though the .com is taking down sex worker sites, they cannot touch you using WordPress on your own site.) WordPress makes backing up your database easy and the Duplicator plugin means you can migrate your entire site, including photos and settings, to a new WordPress site in minutes. With the insecurity and instability of FOSTA, having a website that you can easily move around is a worthwhile investment of time and money. (WordPress and the Duplicator plugin are free.)

your website content

Does your content need changed? Most recommend being very discreet about what, exactly, you’re offering. Or you could hide your entire site behind a password that requires minimal screening to access. Or pretend you’re some other type of professional (e.g. life coach) and that none of what you’re doing is sexual. (Though how many life coaches advertise on malls filled with lingerie-covered women?) Do you need to reduce your photos to fully-clothed ones? Or will lingerie be okay? There is conflicting advice over what to do. I think you should do your own research into the scope of the law, the implications of how you present, and do what you think is best for you.

They’re forcing us to toe an impossible line: pretend we’re not sex workers, while still getting clients to understand we’re sex workers.

advertising in the US

You’ve likely heard about advertising platforms going down in the US. Advertising options are shrinking. There are plenty of international sites that also have US cities listed, but a site like Eros likely won’t last long.

I still find most of my clients, and my best clients, from Eros. (I was using BP successfully until it shut down the Adult section and it’s been worthless for me since.) I’m going to clean up my Eros ad, making the text sound more like a personals ad. I’m going to post very discreet pictures, I’m not even sure if I should post lingerie pictures or not.

Regardless of the steps I’m taking to not get kicked off of Eros, the site itself has a shelf life. And that is the problem. I still believe it’s our best advertising mall for US clients (especially if you don’t participate on review boards). Losing it is going to be a huge blow to all of us. I know I didn’t think Eros would be affected by trafficking laws, but I never imagined a law that would essentially turn consensual adult prostitution into a federal crime.

Not all clients are even aware of what’s going on. But they do know what Eros is. So when they look for it and it’s gone…where are they going to go? That’s the million dollar question.

Twitter, though hugely popular for both providers and clients, is on its way to kicking active sex workers off. The same concerns apply to Instagram and Facebook. Will clients be able to find their way to an offshore advertising site? Likely. But then the question is which one? It’s impossible to advertise on them all, especially because being too out there right now could make you a more tempting target for arrest. I don’t have any answer about where to go, I’m still working on that myself.

your real risks

The passage of FOSTA means that local cops could arrest you and literally turn your arrest into a federal case, instead of just a local misdemeanor. Police are going to be completely aware of this new power. This makes tight screening a hugely important part of your work.

FOSTA takes away sites that allow us to communicate. While blacklists are still around, they’re even more fragmented. We lost a major provider community last week. This means it’s harder to know what’s going on and what resources are around. This reduces our safety and increases our isolation and risk. Clients who are scared your business isn’t secure won’t want to screen. (This is the possible problem of an over-informed client. I think I’d prefer the ones who have no idea this bill exists.)

And, because this is going to affect our business so deeply due to losing major advertising platforms, predators are coming out of the woodwork because they know that some providers aren’t going to have the resources to protect themselves and their business, and will be willing to take risks to pay their bills. That’s always existed, it’s now that a federal law directly creates this situation (instead of the individual provider’s life causing a bad situation). A law meant to fight trafficking has done nothing more than empower predators. I don’t think I’m stretching to say this stupid law is creating trafficking situations. It’s certainly creating coercive ones.

alternatives

Picking up men in bars (or wherever) is likely going to become a focus for many providers. I see Meet and Greets happening more, though vetting for that would have to be extremely well-done. Making and passing out business cards might become a thing more of us do. Having more privatized social media is likely going to become a thing.

escape

Dennis Hof claims he has been flooded with new applicants since the bill passed. Working at a US brothel is legal, though there are a huge amount of cons to it. Some ladies have talked about working internationally but that also has a fair amount of cons (just nowhere near like the brothel list of cons). You can find international touring info here and here. There’s stripping. There’s finding another job in a hurry. There’s wine.

what this isn’t

There is nothing even close to a consensus on what the risks really are and exactly everything you need to do to keep yourself safe. I’m feeling my way around and I may be really wrong about some of the assumptions I’ve made here. And though I’ve been thinking about these issues and dealing with them for a week — just like everyone else — I know I haven’t found all the far-reaching implications and unintended consequences of FOSTA. I’ve not even covered everything I’ve learned here. (I’m perfectly aware that my books are painting a target on my back like they never have before.) This is a quick and dirty overview that hopefully helps someone who is overwhelmed or not sure where to start. I’ve been Tweeting a lot of links over the past week, info that I hope is helpful.

I’ve collected a fair amount of links that I’ve referenced above and here are the rest.

Survivors Against Sesta

Assembly Four
Switter
https://twitter.com/iamdylancurran/status/977566839839617025
https://twitter.com/PrincessMarxxx/status/978700326512443393
CATO.org thoughts on FOSTA
ACLU open letter on SESTA
how to choose a domain registry
Tits and Sass guide
DMCA ignored hosting
Orange hosting
budget offshore hosting
Netherlands hosting reviews
free website encryption
excellent resource for a secure offshore website
Ghost.org
Grav.org
ZeroBlog
Nikola

17 thoughts on “fosta/sesta for online escorts

  1. I believe when this law goes into effect and once someone figures a way to be able to post ads again the government and their goons the vice cops will be lurking on the net looking to bust us with a vengence. But after awhile this bulls–t will blow over. It might be as little as a few months or no longer than a year or two before things on the internet cool off. But the hypocrites and bullies will eventually tire of us and find a new scapegoat to pick on and it will be business as usual. It might help for us to find other ways to drum up business other than the world wide web while the temperature is hot online. The smart hooker saved money for the coming cyclone as it was definitely in the weather forecast. Good luck everyone and be safe because the storm is here.

    1. 100% agreed Provider1.

      This is going to be really really hard on the providers with few resources, or the ones who aren’t business savvy. I think the numbers of online providers will drop…which is the whole intent of this law, of course.

  2. There are still 35 alternatives to Craigslist / Backpage / MyRedBook for online escorts:
    http://www.copsrcorrupt.com/alternatives-to-backpage—myredbook—craigslist.html

    While they will apply this new law broadly and use it for more than it’s intended use I do believe that the new law only creates new powers / laws against website owners who knowingly facilitate prostitution or other illegal acts but specificity human trafficking. And while I’m not an attorney I think that the worst that individual sex workers will face from this is loss of traffic / profit due to this scarring away the johns.

    Stay strong, keep your heads up and remember we don’t care what the government does we will do as we please.

  3. As you said, the implications of the passing of this legislation are very wide and unknown. Just a few thoughts that came across my mind: If I met a client and I didn’t really want to put in much effort and gave him a crappy session, what recourse does he have other than not seeing me again? He can’t write a review. TER is gone.

    On the same token, if the client rips me off or abused me, what recourse do I have? Especially if the blacklist sites all disappear.

    Also, as you mentioned, how do the providers find new clients? Hang out at hotel bars? Have some kind of secret signal that they’re a provider? Maybe wear a red bow pinned to their dress? (Haha).

    And if a client does somehow find a new provider, and she has no reviews that can be located (since TER is gone), how does he know what he’s getting?

    Lots of unknowns. If I was a provider, I would be focusing on my civilian career at this time and maintaining existing clients only, while UTR.

    1. Opine — Guys who want to review will find a way, I’m very sure about that. And you’ve never had any real recourse against bad clients, blacklists are only warnings to other ladies. It’s not much in the way of justice. The real problem now is that everyone else can’t get the warnings as easily.

      Ladies who want clients to “know” what they’re getting will find a way to express themselves…on lesser-regulated social media, offshore blogs, newsletters, whatever. It’s advertising malls and finding those clients that are the real issues. I know that Slixa keeps being mentioned but they bank at Bank of America (in Arizona, no less), which means their business is on US soil and that’s a problem right now. Eros…their days are probably numbered. Clients are going to start looking at international sites (I’m guessing) and that’s going to be such a crapshoot to know which ones are the most popular with US clients.

      Yes, a whole lot of unknowns. I encourage everyone to cultivate their current clients like a garden. And those who are feeling the pinch should look for work outside of this industry. This law is going to do exactly what it was intended to do: force sex workers out and reduce the overall numbers.

  4. By the way Amanda, thank you so much for this post. A lot of people are wondering WTF is going on, which is how I came across your site. I know that you are an advocate and I remembered you from many years ago.. I’m so glad to see that you are informing many people who desperately want some answers.

  5. There is a lot of talk about off shore servers. I believe a U.S. ISP (internet service provider company) like Verizon or any smartphone carrier can block certain websites including ones off shore. I think the off shore sites can create mirror sites to combat censorship. But an escort ad mall constantly having to change it’s web address is not going to be to client friendly. I am sure some clients and diehard internet hobbyists will be willing to go through a bunch of hassles and inconveniences to continue hooking up with providers online however I also believe a lot more of them won’t especially if police set up stings and entrapment online. I could be wrong but I think a lot of providers and clients are going to come outside to meet. I truly believe providing is going to become very popular in public places.

    I must say I totally agree with you Amanda that this stupid law has to do with reducing the amount of providers which it will. The hysteria of forced trafficking and trafficking of minors is nothing but smoke and mirrors to hoodwink the general public into endorsing an unconstitutional police crackdown on mature consenting adults providing and enjoying a wonderful and natural service.

    1. Provider1 — I agree that China-style censorship of the Internet is the next logical step. If it is done by private companies and not the government, some enterprising company will offer access to the full Internet. But also agreed that the more hoops non-hobbyist clients have to jump through, the more the online business will suffer.

      Men who have more on their minds than figuring out the latest way to find an escort are going to turn to…? On business trips, it’s easy: go to the hotel bar. For local men who don’t travel…I don’t know. The only thing I know for know is everyone should be collecting good contacts, building up your virtual black book.

      For now, it looks like a massive shift is happening, kind of like the super storms in the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” When the storm clears, the landscape is going to be different. My guess is still going more old-school.

      Kind of like how Middle Eastern terrorists work by going low-tech, face to face, very secure. They accomplish what they do through networks of trust and staying off the literal radar. We’re going to have to take a page from their book, I think. Find ways to facilitate face to face meetings, creating trusted networks offline (or with minimal online action), passing written notes (or texts on burner phones). This isn’t paranoia or glorifying terrorism, but I can see the parallels.

  6. This is going to be interesting to see how things pan out. It could go three ways I believe. One scenario is the U.S. will require IP providers to block every foreign website that allows escort ads. The constant blocking will not totally stop internet prostitution but it will cut down the money to be made to a small fraction. The second scenario is providers could use foreign escort sites that look like a dating site that would ban known provider language. Providers could request “upscale” or “generous” gentlemen. No more reviews, no more blatant acronyms and hopefully this will cut down the beebeebeejay and gee-ef-eee which for the most part was created by clients and used to be the exception rather than the rule. Hopefully this will be the outcome and make it more of a provider controlled market with safer services instead of a client controlled market with riskier services that a lot of providers especially newbies were conned, pressured and coerced into doing by power tripping review board hobbyists. I think this would be the best scenario for internet providers along with higher rates. The third scenario will be a free for all with foreign escort sites blatant ads, hobbyist review boards with NO restraints. It will attract everything that this new law claims to prevent but ten times worse. There will be drug addicts, minors, dope dealers, thugs and all sorts of lowlifes posting and offering every service even uncovered services for lowball prices.

    If providers banded together prices would be way higher gee-ef-ee and riskier services would be triple the price and would be the exception rather than the rule done discretely and rarely and providers would control the market. However this is most likely impossible because independence and freedom have a price and that price is almost everyone who is independent has their own agenda and it makes harder to unify everyone.

    There are providers right now who are hurting financially being coerced into doing specials by clients who know a lot of providers are starving right now after BP shutdown. I pray and hope scenario two will happen but my gut believes most likely scenario one or three will happen and if scenario three happens than scenario one will shortly follow. China, Russia and North Korea practice internet censorship and the U.S. will at some point shortly follow unless scenario two prevails.

    1. Concerned Bystander — An awful lot of international advertising sites are already incredibly explicit and have zero regulation regarding photos/text (logically, because most countries don’t have US puritantanical standards). Should the US market start migrating to those sites…ugh. I hope the majority of us pick better sites to make home. Internationally, review culture is spotty and you generally have to dig around to find the local boards. Though there are sites like Captain69 that are somewhat known to US clients already.

      Setting rates should be done by the individual. I’ve seen a lot of talk about minimum rate setting and generally it’s done by women who are at the lower end. Taking this business as a business and being a professional about it is all you need to raise your rates. If they haven’t done this pre-FOSTA, then they likely won’t do it now. Getting ideal rates takes time, energy, money. Those who can’t or won’t invest in their business don’t get the rewards.

      I control my own market for me. That’s all I care about. This should be every provider’s concern, not other providers. I don’t care what other providers in any given area are charging. I know my market and I get it (and turn down business I don’t want). FOSTA doesn’t change any of this, other than worry about advertising platforms.

      The warning signs that BP was going down have been around for a while. Providers had time to build their business and look for alternatives. I get there are those who have been incredibly hard hit for a number of reasons. But an awful lot of the whinging is from those who had plenty of warning (from the news and other providers), and had the time and resources to secure their business, but didn’t. The truly desperate ones, like those who have gone missing working the streets for the first time, are the ones that make me cry.

      Hobbyists will always be hobbyists. Predators will always be predators. Making decisions with your wallet instead of your head is never a good idea. These things have not changed due to FOSTA.

      The US certainly could go full China as far as Internet censorship goes. It’s our duty to ourselves to keep up with what’s happening and try to be a step ahead of it. This IS about survival, and this law (and the fallout) is going to accomplish its intention: to thin the number of sex workers online because not everyone can keep up with the changing Internet.

      And before anyone goes on about the good old days, I can remember girls struggling to pay bills back in 2002, when I first started and everything was ridiculously easy. There will always be those who aren’t suited for the business. FOSTA doesn’t change that either, it just makes it really obvious. My hope is that those who can no longer safely make a living in escort work transition to other work before they’re harmed.

  7. Amanda I see why your so well respected especially as far as this business, excellent reply and comment. It is true everyone’s market is different. A lot depends on where you post, what town or city you are in, how you market yourself (nice ad, nice pics) what you look like, attraction level, how much confidence and salesperson skills you have including the gift of gab, your age, the services you offer, your competition and a dozen other things.

    There will always be people who are better money managers in any business so the provider with a cocaine habit or a shopping addiction for high end handbags, shoes and other clothes will feel the crunch. The desperados will fall victim to sleazy hobbyists and other predators. The responsible ladies will maintain their good loyal clients. The strong will adapt, survive and will probably do better in the long run the ones who can’t adapt will fall to the wayside and will have to do something else. Thanks again for the beautiful reply it made my day.

    1. Concerned Bystander — Marketing relies on so many factors, most of them dependent on the provider, that FOSTA doesn’t touch. The biggest factor that the BP closure touches are those who used it because no other advertising covered their area. This is why Switter is a godsend for those providers.

      As far as money management goes, from what I can tell, it’s not addictions, it’s simply that the providers aren’t able to attract enough business to make it worthwhile. If the market is telling you you have no market…either rethink how you’re approaching the business or find work elsewhere.

      Though I have already noticed that disreputable BP clients have discovered Eros and I have gotten far more clients who can’t pass screening than normal. Someone desperate is going to see these guys and it’s very sad. Screening is so important right now because the bad guys are trying to see anyone and everyone.

      Thank you and you’re welcome!

  8. Well Amanda, this is really a rotten situation. But not unexpected – you predicted it, the Backpage part at the least.

    I found a couple of items that might interest you (if you haven’t already seen them). This man is one of the very few in Washington D.C. was some sense and decency.

    Here is a (growing) list of companies that discriminate against sex workers. I’m sure you’re very familiar with a lot of this.

    Hope you enjoy the Derby! (I like Mendelssohn).

    1. Lee — Thanks for the links! Yes, I knew of the latter but not the former one. 🙂

      I totally missed the Derby this year. I know your favorite didn’t win, though.

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