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How SESTA-FOSTA Affects the Modeling Industry

Have you ever shared 18+ photos or videos via Google Drive, Tumblr, Twitter? Now those activities could be punishable by a fine and/or a prison term of up to 10 years for the platform that hosts the content.

If FOSTA (the follow up bill for SESTA – The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017) goes into effect, it’s only a matter of time before online portfolio sites (such as Model Mayhem, One Model Place, iStudio, Model Society to name a few) may be forced to censor all forms of nudity, regardless of it’s artistic value, if not be completely shut down.

This bill has been passed through the senate in an attempt to curb online sex trafficking. Of course, the cause is vitally important. Sadly, the negative side effects of this vague blanket proposition are far more damaging than the perceived benefits, and it’s taking a massive toll on the modeling industry as well!

“The difference is now the website can be sued or face jail time by the federal government for any content that looks suspicious posted by a third-party.” – Liz Ashley (model)


Model: Liz Ashley

It is no secret that rare cases of sex trafficking have occurred via modeling portfolio sites. Since these occurrences, some of the major model portfolio hosting sites have taken action by enforcing stricter guidelines before getting approved to join. Unfortunately, the extremely minuscule percentage of online portfolio users who are actually predators could destroy the platform’s opportunities for all models and photographers by proxy, as a result of the not-yet-signed law.

The core of the bill states if an Internet company knowingly engages in the advertising of sex trafficking, the US Department of Justice can and should prosecute it. Fine art and glamour nude photography, adult performers and producers, as well as consensual sex workers share many of the same platforms that illegal sex traffickers use. But one wouldn’t charge a hotel with a crime if a prostitute was soliciting on their property, right? If this metaphor were a reality in the physical world, hotels would likely be enforcing dress codes punishable by jail time. That doesn’t make sense, does it?

Some platforms that provide models and photographers the ability to share and transfer files are already over-compensating  by disallowing the sharing and distribution nude content. This means models and photographers may not be able to sell prints or digital photos online, a way of life many full time creators depend on to make a living.

“There’s no distinction between nude artwork and prostitution under the new FOSTA/SESTA” – Blue River Dream (model)


Model: Blue River Dream; Photographer: Sheila Roldan

Many of us would like to blame our puritanical society, alas there are much larger players who have their cards in this game. The “Internet Association” whose members include Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, and Netflix have endorsed the legislation.

“This is probably the largest wave of censorship the open internet will ever see,” said Tani Rogue (model and photographer) in her recent YouTube video, “Everything Content Creators Should Know About FOSTA/SESTA in under 5 minutes.”

If existing platforms are going to enforce censorship, why don’t models and photographers just start their own websites? If one has the funds and resources for their own payment processing and/or standalone server, that sounds like a solution… but how would one drive traffic to your page? The law would make it nearly impossible to advertise.

“If I made a website but couldn’t share it on social media and such due to content, how would anyone find me or me generate new business ?” – SpaceKitty (model)


Model: SpaceKitty; Photographer: Darcy Lynn Delia

Subreddits and other online forums that allowed users to have an conversations about sex are being shut down and/or are at risk of being removed. These are places where victims found safety.

“Most tragically of all, the first people censored would likely be sex trafficking victims themselves.” – Elliot Harmon of EFF.org

Freedom of expression should not be put at risk, and the lives of innocent people are also in jeopardy due to the disappearance of safety platforms.  ‪FOSTA would undermine any online communication that could protect those victims of trafficking as well as consensual sex workers. ALL screening, ALL peer references, ALL bad date lists would not be sharable under the pending law. ‪

Sites will be held responsible for content of their users. To protect themselves from legal recourse, many sites have already begun censoring and implemented new policies to restrict activity of their users.

Here is a list of some of the companies affected, and some articles about of their responses to the bill:

A longer list of affected sites including several industry platforms can be found here:

Additionally, investigation is underway to confirm actions taken by GoDaddy, WordPress, Gmail, and Instagram.

There is a beam of hope- as of the date this article was written, it has been 14 days since the bill was passed, which means it is 4 days late for the President to have signed on it. Has it been pocket vetoed? No announcements have been made to confirm or deny.

Even if it has been pocket vetoed, there is still a strong possibility that the bill could be presented again. It is up to us as creators to stand up for our freedom of expression.

The best thing we as individuals can do is to call your congressmen. Here is a very handy link with instructions on what to say and how to get on the phone with these authorities: https://act.eff.org/action/stop-sesta-fosta

Another thing we can all do is to sign the petition to STOP SESTA-FOSTA.

Lastly, it’s incredibly important that we work together to spread awareness of what this means for the future of the internet and for our first amendment rights. Talk about it with your social media audience, share these links, bring it up in conversation.

Written by Kristy Jessica aka “Pure Rebel”


Model: Kristy Jessica; Photographer: Some Camera Guy

Kristy Jessica

Kristy Jessica is a freelance model based in Seattle, WA.

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