Large Tech Companies Punish Sex Workers

Large Tech Companies Punish Sex Workers

“Sex work is work”, we hear over and over again on social media by influencers, brands, and celebrities. CashApp, Venmo, Facebook, and almost every other social media and payment processor has banned sex workers, though, with some sex workers having lost thousands of dollars and customers to these bans. Some have even been impacted by these bans in their private lives. 

The reasoning behind these bans is the terms of use, which stem back to the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (FOSTA / SESTA) laws passed in 2018. These laws require tech companies to ban users who may be promoting illegal sexual activity. Sex work is not decriminalized in the United States, meaning users who partake in it can be and routinely are banned from using their services. Oftentimes, there is no reasoning listed; the account is locked and disappears. Appeals do not exist and creating new accounts leads to another ban. This isn’t unique to the United States, though, as other countries also have laws similar to FOSTA / SESTA. Even in countries where sex work is decriminalized, users can be banned as it is a company policy not a government one. Freedom of speech means freedom to ban. 

“PayPal basically doesn’t allow any type of sex work. I was banned the first time in November 2019 with a business account, and then the second time at the end of March 2020,” Alleria, an online sex worker from Canada where some sex work is legal, says. 

Angel, from England, also faced a PayPal ban about 7 months ago. Unlike Alleria who still uses a private account outside of sex work, Angel has been permanently banned even from her PayPal that she uses for her marketing business.

“I created a new PayPal, not even for sex work but for my personal life, as I had a family friend who wanted to send money from abroad and I run a network marketing business and people wanted to pay for raffles through it, which then got banned after about a week.” 

While payment processors like PayPal might seem like the most obvious place for sex workers to be banned, dating apps like Tinder are notorious for bans, too. 

A sex worker from Michigan who wanted to remain anonymous was banned from Tinder a few months ago. In her case, though, the ban was puzzling; she made no mention of being a sex worker on her Tinder nor in any messages with her matches. 

“I realized later on that they had discovered through my Instagram. They don’t offer an appeal. I sent multiple emails to them about this to no avail. Tinder bans are serious. I cannot use a different email, a different phone number, or a different Facebook account to make a new Tinder.”

However, unlike Alleria and Angel, who lost $130 and $35 respectively, she did not lose any money or customers.

“I don’t think I had a Tinder match who subscribed to my OnlyFans. I don’t think any of my matches were aware of my doing sex work. I didn’t break any Tinder policies. I purposefully kept sex work away from Tinder, or so I thought. That is an invasion of privacy to me. My Instagram wasn’t connected to my Tinder. They were spying on me outside of their app.” 

Alleria and Angel agree that they are losing customers due to their PayPal bans. 

“I probably am missing out on a good portion of clients because I cannot use PayPal anymore,” Alleria says. 

Angel agrees but goes further, saying, “This affects me being able to get customers who prefer to be discreet or [who are] from other countries. Being banned from the most popular payment service has drastically affected my earnings and caused me a lot of stress.”

While sex work becomes increasingly popular as a way to make money in the midst of the pandemic, some question what this means for the future of sex work in terms of technology. To learn more about how to stop SESTA and FOSTA, visit