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SISEA: The Fourth Horseman of the Pornocalypse

Posted at 15:00 on 4 Jan 2021 by Pandora / Blake

Recently I published a post discussing the substantial change to Pornhub’s community guidelines which has seen millions of videos removed from the site, and Visa and Mastercard removing billing from PornHub during their investigation into illegal content, which will hit content creators hard.

In what appears to be a response to these changes - or perhaps to the anti-porn fearmongering that prompted them - an invasive bill has been put forward in the US Senate with extensive regulation proposals for adult sites. The bill - known as the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA) - proposes regulations such as a requirement for platforms to operate a 24-hour telephone hotline that you can contact to request removal of a pornographic image if you haven’t consented to its upload, and remove flagged videos within two hours of such a request.

Tackling unconsensual images is important, but this bill would represent the end of online porn. The privacy implications are terrifying (a global database of individuals who have indicated they do not consent, accessible by anyone uploading porn? Really?) and the impact on independent porn sites would be devastating. Show me a single indie producer who could staff a 24hr phone line, because I don’t know any. The full list of restrictions that SISEA is looking to bring in is alarming. Most online sex workers rely on platforms like OnlyFans and Clips4Sale, and advertise on Twitter. It seems likely that OnlyFans and Twitter would stop hosting porn rather than comply with these expensive and burdonsome regulations; and platforms dedicated to porn might well lack the resources to comply. If the umbrella term ‘platforms’ includes indie self-hosted porn sites as well, it's the end of online porn as we know it.

I don’t say this lightly - if this bill gets through it's the end of porn on Twitter, and the end of fan sites, clip sites and membership sites. Sex workers are already being squeezed out of most social media spaces by commercial regulations making it harder and harder to advertise. Selling sexual content online is accessible, COVID-safe work. In a pandemic, destroying the online sex industry means taking much-needed income away from struggling individuals. The callousness is staggering. Do they want people to be mixing households by meeting clients in person, and putting themselves at greater risk of violence and arrest by selling sex outdoors, instead of performing in the safety of their bedrooms? Because that’s exactly what will happen with the introduction of this bill into law.

Even if SISEA doesn't pass, the threat alone is enough to put us in our place - as our governments desire so much. Porn creators are in an abusive relationship with financial institutions and governments. They can ruin us any time they care to -  and they like showing it. Bills like this remind us of our precarity, and it's humiliating.

In my sex positive online bubble, working hard to build my business, I sometimes forget that  much of the world thinks I should stop doing what I'm doing. This bill serves as an unwelcome reminder that the mood out there is hostile. 

It is absolutely essential to the health and diversity of our sexual culture, not to mention the survival of sex workers worldwide, that we prevent this from becoming law. If you're in the US, write to your senator - and I encourage you to donate to the Free Speech Coalition to support them in their battle against SISEA.

This isn't the happy tidings I hoped to start the year with. It's a timely reminder that porn censorship never goes away completely - it just recedes for a while.

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Tags: censorship, Free Speech Coalition, independent porn, law, Porn Censorship, porn law, Pornhub, pornocalypse, SISEA

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