Three months after the bill’s passage, the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, said, “We have shut down nearly 90% of the online sex-trafficking business and ads.” The Washington Post fact-checked this claim and gave her three Pinocchios.
Among other issues with her comment, most of the decline in sex-work ads came after the government seized the website Backpage, a move that happened before FOSTA-SESTA was passed. And, The Post wrote, “after the initial drop, advertising for the sex trade appears to have rebounded, such as on new websites that mimic Backpage with named like ‘Bedpage.’”
As for the actual business of sex trafficking, there’s no evidence that the law has made any difference whatsoever.
The cofounder of the St. James Infirmary, “a health clinic that supports sex workers in California’s Bay Area,” told The Verge “that in the weekend following FOSTA, the infirmary’s mobile van outreach saw a dramatic increase of street-based sex workers in the Mission District.” Sex workers weren’t just going to disappear, and police departments across the country seem to have been caught off-guard by this influx.
“Getting hookers back on the streets!” isn’t much of a rallying cry, and it’s probably riskier for everyone involved than screening first in virtual space.