In recent years, there has been a catalog of restrictions placed on adult content producers online. Never has this been more apparent then in the United States post-SESTA/FOSTA.
Recently, companies have begun altering their terms and conditions in favor of restricting adult content. This includes cloud-based web development platforms that allow users to create websites through the use of online drag and drop tools – think Wix and Squarespace – as well as conventional hosting companies – think GoDaddy and DreamHost.
Operating under SESTA/FOSTA’s misconception that sex work and sex trafficking are the same thing (they are not) and the law’s key provision that websites can be prosecuted if they engage in the “promotion or facilitation of prostitution” or “facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims,” rationale follows that if online spaces like Craigslist are liable for ads places on their sites, then sites that host independent content may be liable as well.
So, whilst sites such as Flirt4Free or Chaturbate who have adult-specific hosting are in the clear, independent cammers are left worrying about their future with their host. Models and content producers who have been with their host companies for years have been forced to move their entire sites as terms and conditions tighten.
For instance, in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, adult content producers hosting with WebHosting.Ninja received emails informing them of the company’s altered policies in relation to adult content. The messages stated:
“Due to new corporate policies and guidelines we have enacted here at WebHosting.Ninja, we unfortunately will no longer be able to host sites containing adult content. Please at your earliest move your account to a new host provider to avoid account suspension.”
— Web Hosting Ninja (@Ninja_Hosting) August 17, 2017
Moving sites is no easy thing. There’s much work involved, and — unless you’re tech savvy — you may incur costs bringing someone on board to do the move for you. Further, some platforms make moving your content very difficult – or, downright impossible. WIX for example states on their site:
“Your WIX site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on WIX servers and cannot be transferred elsewhere. Specifically, it is not possible to export or embed files, page or sites created using WIX editor or ADI to another external destination or host. It is also not possible to embed your WIX site onto an external site.”
If your hosting is structured to make a move difficult, then you could be left having to rebuilding your entire site — which, who has the time or the emotional energy for that?!
Want to drive more traffic to your #blog?
— Wix.com (@Wix) May 18, 2018
Many site owners were forced to make hasty moves to avoid losing their accounts through suspension. Finding a new host is a minefield, but the outlook isn’t completely bleak. Hosts such as MojoHost, HostGator and HostClear are all still happy to host legal adult content.
We corresponded with Brad Mitchell, CEO of MojoHost, regarding the changes hosts are making in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA. When asked if he feels adult content still has a place online, he wrote:
“Consenting, legal adult entertainment is perhaps the most powerful expression of free speech that we hold so dearly as Americans. Digital adult entertainment consumption in all the ways that people traditionally enjoy it remains unaffected. If adult content producers are moving their hosting, it should be going to companies like MojoHost where they will be surrounded by an exceptional neighborhood of similar clientele and supported by a business that properly understands not only the needs of the customer but also the laws which are relevant.”
Mitchell makes a good point. Perhaps cammers and content providers would benefit from being hosted by adult-specific hosting.
We wondered if cammers could get around these issues by hosting overseas? Mitchell thinks not.
“If an American citizen thinks that they can simply move hosting of illegal content overseas, they’re sorely mistaken,” he explained. “It’s the citizenship that they are accountable to and any other obfuscation of services will yield no protection.”
Editor’s note: MojoHost CEO Brad Mitchell wrote about sex work and the internet at length. His thoughtful comments in full follow.
Brad Mitchell: MojoHost has not changed any of its policies regarding the hosting legal adult content. In business since 1999, we have built the largest customer base of adult entertainment sites in the world. MojoHost has always conducted business at or exceeding the highest available standards of both law and professional ethics.
With exception for the licensed brothels in Nevada, it has always been in MojoHost’s Acceptable Use Policy to decline hosting for escort web sites and all other activity considered illegal in the United States of America. Operators of adult entertainment sites have always been “less safe” as customers of less experienced and less-specialized non-adult hosting companies, as their policy and commitment to legal adult entertainment is unaccountable. Further, I would challenge any adult site operator’s patronage of non-adult industry (specialized) hosting services, as they do nothing to support the fair and best interests of the adult entertainment industry.
As consumers in a free market, we vote with our dollars. I take our responsibility as a host of predominately adult content very seriously. We give back tremendously with how we educate our customers, participate at business tradeshows and support worthy causes. MojoHost is a proud member of the ASACP, and I (personally) am on the Executive Board because of its strong mission to battle child exploitation. MojoHost is also a proud member Free Speech Coalition.
Consenting, legal adult entertainment is perhaps the most powerful expression of free speech that we hold so dearly as Americans. Digital adult entertainment consumption in all of the ways that people traditionally enjoy it remain unaffected. If adult content producers are moving their hosting, it should be going it to companies similar to MojoHost where they will be surrounded by an exceptional neighborhood of similar clientele and supported by a business that properly understands not only the needs of the customer, but also the laws which are relevant. If an American citizen thinks that they can simply move hosting of illegal content overseas, they are sorely mistaken. It’s their citizenship that they are accountable to and any other obfuscation of services will yield no protection. As I would jokingly say, it’s “ass location” that matters most, not the location of servers.
The sky is not falling. Solicitation for prostitution IS NOT and HAS NEVER BEEN legal in the USA. When I talk about adult entertainment online, I’m not evening thinking of [prostitution] in my frame of reference. Premium “pay” sites, free “tube” sites, live web cams, novelties and online dating are the business being transacted on 99% of web sites on the internet. When we meet at B2B tradeshows, this is the “adult” business that we work in and around.
My personal belief about FOSTA is not relevant, because FOSTA is the law. Having said that, I do have a strong opinion. I believe we already have strong laws across these great United States which prohibit sex trafficking, child exploitation and prostitution. No person of any right mind, or of any religious or political preference, could ever disagree with our responsibility as a society to protect those who are most vulnerable. I do not believe that the new legislation protects those who are most vulnerable more than pre-existing legislation. In fact, I believe it potentially worsens the problem by forcing consensual sex work “underground.” It was already illegal, so it’s impossible to make an argument that it was “okay.” But now, I think these new laws almost force sex workers to a criminal underground that they previously did not have to participate in. The new law is so very broad, it essentially criminalizes entities and individuals that are unrelated to the direct sexual activity. FOSTA completely avoids the real conversation that Americans need to be having: should prostitution be legal or illegal. Sex work is legal and regulated for the benefit of its workers in other developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia. Sex trafficking and child exploitation is a blight upon the world and the responsibility of all of us to fight.
I believe that paid, consensual sexual activity between adults in the United States should be legalized. This “oldest profession” is represented almost entirely by consensual adults, the same way that online digital entertainment is. De-criminalizing prostitution could only serve to benefit the health and welfare of sex workers by offering them protections that are currently unavailable, including removing them from the danger of today’s pimps and organized crime. With legalized prostitution, everyone (including sex workers) could take on the fight to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation. I have no more personal interest in sex work than I do the legalization of cannabis… so, absolutely zero. I am hopeful that both are someday legalized across the United States, because only then can we properly focus our resources on crime, physical and mental health.
— MojoHost (@mojohost) April 30, 2018
Katy Seymour is a super-sex-positive writer in the U.K. who believes kink is life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via horst tappert.