You are here

IGF 2019 – Day 1 – Raum III – WS 389 Sex Work, Drug Use, Harm Reduction And The Internet - RAW

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

***

 



>> Hello?  Hi, everyone.  We're just about to get started so if you want to find a seat, that would be great.  Firstly, I want to thank the IGF for allowing us to have this today, we're focusing on harm and sex work and the intersection between the two.  This subject can be quite difficult for some folks and we invite you to leave as necessary to look after your mental health.

So before we go on and introduce our amazing panelist, I want to quickly go through the themes for today's session.  If you're going to have some discussions, could you please leave.  Thanks.

So, today's themes are how do we ensure that internet legislation and regulation regarding sex work, drugs, and cybersecurity results in less harm for sex work, drug dealers, abusers, the LGBTI community, survivors of abuse and human trafficking victims

How do we ensure the unintended consequences do not expose those groups to harm?  How do we ensure attempts by social networking groups to clean up social and drug‑related content does not relate in exclusion or direct harm of vulnerable groups

At the end end of today's workshop we'll collect contributions from the panelists, onsite and offline audience that will help inform our report on policy recommendations on the topics discussed today

Can we please get Maggie connect the so she can introduce herself?

>> The outcome ‑‑ pregnancy ‑‑

(silence)

>> MODERATOR:  Okay.  It looks like there are some technical difficulty.

>> MAGGIE MAYHEM:  My name is Maggie Mayhem San Francisco California, founder of Harm Reducts, a small grassroot it's harm reduction programme that provides health and hygiene supplies to stimulant users who are marginally homeless in San Francisco.  Board of directors of Sex Worker Outreach Project USA and also on the Leadership Team of the Barry Adula Project and that provides support to people for any outcome of a pregnancy or lack thereof.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Thanks for that, Maggie.  Next, we're going to introduce Lola.

>> LOLA HUNT:  Hello?  Is this on?

>> MODERATOR:  Yes.

>> LOLA HUNT:  Okay.  I'm sorry.  I'm Lola Hunt one of the Co‑founder of Assembly 4.  We run a startup based in Australia.  We started two platforms called Switter and Tryst, I'm also a sex worker, and we launched these platforms in response to a bill that was responsed last year called Fosta, the bill is two bills.  Foster for fight online sex trafficking act and Sesta, stop enabling sex trafficking act.  And a few things to know about these laws that on the surface do sound good but they have actually done a huge amount of harm to the sex‑working community as well as the LGBTQI Community and anyone in the margins, basically.

The bills themselves, WECANN Section 230 in the communication and decency act which means platforms are now be held liable by content placed on them by third parties.

FOSTA specifically covers that ‑‑ says that anything ‑‑ any platform that is seen to be facilitating or promoting prostitution in particular, and so as a result we're seeing the banning, the denial, the raising of women, people of color, transferred of LGBTQI and sex workers of these mainstream platforms, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, basically any mainstream platform, we'll felt the effects here.

We initially launched a platform called Switter which is a decentralized Open Source platform that operates in a very, very similar way to Twitter.  The platform was launched to help people, specifically sex workers shadow band on platforms like Twitter, shadow banning is when you are, essentially banned from the platform without being told.  It's a little bit like screaming into an echo chamber, so you can still post, you're not told that you can't post, but no one can see what you're posting anymore.

So, this caused a huge amount of chaos in the community because we do rely on these platforms to ensure that we are operating safely and that we can check out clients to ensure that they're not violent or dangerous, and Fosta has put this under threat.  It's only starting to be brought into the mainstream media as something that is getting attention after things like, I guess on platforms like Instagram we're starting to see things like the # Women was band and a lot of instances.  So we launched Switter in response to that and within the first seven days I believe, we ended up with 20,000 people on the platform.  It's been a year and a half, and we now have 270,000 people on the platform.

We've had to cut sign‑ups off in the last six months because we are only a team of three, as we don't want to take on funding or external people that aren't directly involved in sex work or have experience in it, so this number would be a lot bigger but we did have to cut that, so we've also got a sister platform called Tryst, which is how we sustain Switter and keep it free and open for those who need it.

A lot of the people that use Switter are street‑based sex workers or survival sex workers.  The survival sex workers are sort of the most vulnerable in sort of the sex worker community.  These are people who really rely on these platforms to ensure that they can do indoor work rather than outdoor work which dramatically reduces the threat of violence towards them.

>> MODERATOR:  Do you want to introduce yourself?

>> Yes.  I am from Korea and sex worker activist with sex workers, and yeah, and I'm also researcher at Open Net Korea and Open Net Korea is focusing on freedom of expression, and the reason why I'm here is to give a short speech about the situation on sex working in Korea.  Yeah.  That's it.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Thank you.  Alex?

>> ALEX COMINOS:  Hi.  I'm Alex Cominos from Research ICT.  I need to use the microphone.  So Research ICT Africa is a Think Tank and we look at the use and access to information communication technologies throughout the African Continent as well as inform good policy with evidence.  We have surveys regarding access to and usage of different ICTs like the Internet and the mobile phone.

This is not my domain, but it is a subject I'm passionate about and I think harm reduction is a very important concept.  We all expose ourselves to risks and harms in daily life.  South Africa has quite a huge heroin problem at the moment and it has a strange name called Wonga and there are some roomers about it that it has anti‑retro viral drugs for HIV AIDS in it.  This doesn't have any economic logic, but the dealers will mix it with the drug, supposedly, and there have been reports of people being mugged and robbed for the drug while receiving it from government hospitals.

And I think there is a lack of understanding as to what actually heroin is when people jump into this, and I think the Internet provides a wealth of information to seek advice about the harms that you face being a human being, as well as to talk about stigmatized issues, and so I'll pass on to Smita now.  It's a bit gross but I'm going to spit out, this is oral tobacco, I'm trying to reduce the harm.

>> SMITA V:  Hi.  I'm Smita, I work with an organisation called Point of View which is based in India, and I specifically work at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and technology.  Part of the work involves research and also involves on‑the‑ground workshops, workshops with women, young girls, queer and trans community as well as sex workers who are based in smaller towns and cities.  All of our workshop and research is done in early regional Indian languages as well so I will be sharing something from there.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  I just want to say thank you to all of our panelists, and can we give them just a quick round of applause for giving us their time.

(Applause)

I also realize I had forgot to introduce myself.I'm Eliza, your moderator for today and I'm also from Assembly 4.  Before we kind of really delve into this, I think today is or should be mostly about audience participation.  I feel that's where we're going to seek the most value, so I would like to invite online and offline participation now before we start going into our questions.

Anyone?  Are there any online questions?

Okay.  I'm going to take that as a no.  So, I guess the first question I'm going to ask for the panel today is what is harm reduction for you and what does that mean on the Internet in 2020?

>>  So I think harm reduction is information.  So if I'm going to consume sugar, if I'm going to consume heroin, if I'm going to consume something or go drinking, I think I need to be informed about what my risks are and how to mediate those risks.  Not everybody goes out, comes out, and has ruined their body, mind, and soul from drugs and I believe there are a lot of resources online that can help people learn the information.  There are sites and forums, and I also think that what we see as the dark web and we see a lot of negativity of the dark web, and yeah it's criminal activity, it is people selling drugs.  But what the dark web does is it can create a freer flow of information and accurate information, both with regards to the product and within the market, so you know, there has been many bad things said about the dark web, but I think it can seriously, possibly reduce drug violence and also, for example, review mechanisms so people who buy drugs can say, well, this was pure, this was not, this was strong, be careful.  And this all happens in a safer environment and not on the streets.  What I'm saying is speculative, but I think harm reduction is very important and not either or.  And without harm reduction approach that stigmatizers, then users, be they abusers or just sick people or just users, they don't really have a chance to treat themselves healthily.

>> I think a very similar thing can be said about sex work.  At the moment the sort of tactic that's being used online is just blatant censorship and sort of ignoring the problem or pushing those who are involved in the industry offline.

I don't think that this is really the right way to go about it because as we know from drugs and other industries, which have been in very similar situations, this only pushes things underground and when things are underground, we know that the people that are involved in that generally endure more harm than good.

Obviously, we have a long way to go in how we actually deal with things like children being on the Internet as well as adult content.  That's obviously another thing to think about, but it doesn't mean that that shouldn't be approached at all.

Blanket censoring, everyone isn't going to help everyone.

>> Hi.  Think when we talk about harm reduction, it's very important to note that harm is very different for people.  It's important to listen to the people who we're supposedly helping to understand what is harm for them, and then also what is a solution as per their understanding of harm.  It's knowledge, yes, but it's also localizing the knowledge so it's actually useful for the communities that we're working with.

And more importantly, I think when we talk about harm reduction, it's really important to note the systemic issues that cause the harm, right.  Otherwise the onus goes on individuals, the onus goes on communities, and in cases of things like sex work, it goes on the profession, on the labor aspect of it, which is not the actual harm, harm is the systemic violence perpetuated against them.

Specifically online, for sex workers, harm would be online violence, it would be repeated calls from unwanted clients, right.  And harm reduction would involve listening to them about what is their specific problem and also acknowledging that there are solutions which they have that we don't know about and recognizing that and supporting that best.  Thank you.

>> I think a huge part of that as well, just on that one, is that like a huge problem that particularly the sex worker community comes up against again and again and again is that mainstream media or just tech platforms are particularly bad at it and don't involve us in policymaking, in developing products, in reporting about us.  And then as a result, we end up with things that don't actually help us at all, and if anything they do cause us more harm.

So actually speaking to sex workers will go a tremendous distance, but it's just not being done at the moment.

>> Yeah.  I think the most important thing is how we can define harm because so many people in Korea regard this sex work is a very harmful thing in Korea, so as like many other countries in the world, sex work in Korea is criminally bad to both sellers and purchasers and are punished and so are third parties.

So like in the space in SMS, the filtering regulation, so the sharing of information between sex workers are basically blocked so they cannot share in the focus of harm reduction, so they cannot share or share like so much information between like a client or knowledge of services putting a flow online, and so I think it is very ‑‑ it is more harmful to sex workers.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Can we go just to Maggie to see her opinion on this one?

>> MAGGIE MAYHEM:  All right.  I loved hearing all of these points, and one of the things I know about harm reduction is that it's best simplified by Dan Biggs of the Chicago Recovery Alliance as being any positive change, and we often think about that as being something that's centered in the individual, but it's important to remember that the change that we're looking at is also in response to criminalization and stigma of people's behaviors, especially with broad criminalization of drug use and also sex work.

Harm reduction is something that has always been created and sustained by activists, and it has always been built upon the idea of having individual or client‑centered services that are underpinned by very simple common‑sense solutions that ultimately are backed by empirical evidence that if you meet people right where they're at, you're going to have remarkable results in terms of mitigating the possible harms of their behavior, whether that's HIV or hepatitis C, homelessness, or mental health or other physical health conditions.  It's really succeeding in spite of laws criminalizing it and succeeding in spite of a great deal of stigma and aversion to any kind of programme that reduces stigma and increases the social capital of the populations that are being focused upon, and this really does stand out to me in terms of drug users who have very little social capital in terms of trying to receive healthcare services in general.

We have this very false dichotomy that people who use drugs are bad and therefore deserve the consequences that they may face, and people who do not use drugs are good and then will therefore experience health.  And these two camps don't accurately define human experience when it comes to drug use or even sex work in general.

So, harm reduction is always about finding different steps, steps that people can take into their own lives that will help them achieve the vision they have for their own lives, ultimately, so it's very much about empowerment and helping people find solutions that are comfortable for them where they are right now, rather than focusing on a broader agenda of trying to abolish certain types of behaviors.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Thanks for that, Maggie.  I think that was a really good introduction to kind of what harm reduction means to a lot of different people in a lot of different scenarios.  Now, I think we should really kind of step towards Internet legislation.

As Lola mentioned in 2018, Fosta passed and cause add lot of harm not just to the sex work community but to the LGBTQI community and I want to ask the panel, how do we ensure that Internet legislation and regulation isn't actually causing more harm?  How do we as technologists, Civil Society, and private society prevent this from happening?

>> So in South Africa, we had I guess you would call it a white paper, a law reform effort suggesting how reform a number of laws with regard to sexual content online and child sexual abuse content and protecting children from pornography, so the white paper, or the document suggested that all devices and network connections or facilities to go online in South Africa were fitted with a filter for children and that was by default on.  It would have been a criminal offense if you as a parent decided that the child should not have the filter on their device, or if you were to, for example, offer a network service like to sell a mobile phone or network connection or to even have an Internet cafe and a child or someone under 18 would use that device and there wouldn't be filtering on it, then someone would be liable for a crime.

And I think ‑‑ yeah, first the adults have failed to protect children from abuse for most of history.  It's nice to put it on it and say this is a problem that exists on the Internet, but most abuse is likely to happen at home from someone that the child knows, and so if a filter is going to protect a child or stop a child from finding out information about the abuse that they're facing or initiating encrypted, by which I mean Whatsapp, communications by someone that can help them, then that's not protecting the child from harm, and if this white paper was implemented as law then kids would simply not go online, it would be two onrus to have an Internet cafe where children could go online, and another thing we can talk about is pornography and I would be interested from the audience and we're coming from a different perspective but some of you might be parents and have certain insights into that.

>> I'm sorry.  I also agree with him.  In Korea there are lots of young peoples who ‑‑ who were a victim in with their families, so they left the family and home in order to avoid the violence from their parents.

Yeah.  And because their age is very young, so they cannot find a proper job or a job which can get more price.  Okay.  So they cannot get the proper job for their living, so many people choose to sell sex for money, but you know in that situation, it makes them very vulnerable.  So through using Whatsapp or another dating app, they find the client ‑‑ or they find clients and, yeah, as you can imagine it is very dangerous to them.

>> Could you repeat the question one more time, please?

>> MODERATOR:  Of course, I can.  How do we ensure that Internet legislation isn't causing more harm than good?

>> I think one of the most important steps to take to ensure that the legislation isn't causing more harm is to make sure that there are different people sitting at the table where they're discussing and ensuring and putting in place these legislations.

Also because and I understand that this is a slow process, but it's important to support that first, right.  Because why do these legislations cause harm?  They cause harm because they're not rooted in reality, they're not rooted in lived experiences, and they're rooted in this abstract sense of what the Internet is supposed to be and this abstract idea of what harm is.  It's not just abstract, but it's also a very western English‑speaking idea of the Internet and what causes harm to these people.  Right.

I think to recognize that the Internet is much more than this would be the first step to making sure the legislation matches with actual concerns of the people and from actual people who are occupying the space.

So, you know, make space at the table to bring in more people, make money to bring in more people at the legislation, and more importantly, talk to people who are actually working with people on the ground, right, otherwise your legislation is going to be something up in the cloud, pun intended in all senses, it's not going to connect.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Did you want to say anything, Lola, on this?  Okay.

Does Maggie want to say anything on this?

>> MAGGIE MAYHEM:  All right.  So I think when we look at conversations about the Internet, we need to make sure that we're not making broad sweeping policies that are based off of liability or hypothetical concerns, and we actually weigh what we can gain from banning certain kinds of conversations and what we stand to lose, especially that in light of the fact a lot of negative consequences are occurring whether or not we create these bans.  Speaking in terms of sex work, we have a lot of conversations that have been banned that are absolutely prohibiting conversations that sex workers are having, and yet there is a proliferating domestic trafficking situation that is existing on mainstream websites such as Facebook and Instagram where people are buying, selling, and trading domestic workers and withholding their important documentation.

This was not something that was foreseen.  The focus was very, very specifically on sex, and we lost this whole group of people and it would be very difficult to ban that kind of speech, and yet people's lives are being harmed.

I don't think that conversation is really weighed properly and this situation wasn't seen as a possibility when it's something that's happening in perhaps greater numbers than the sex trafficking on these platforms.

In terms of drugs, we are increasingly banning any conversation between drug users with the fear that there is going to become a marketplace, and while there is something of a marketplace, we're also losing very, very basic and important conversations about safe use, about safe supply, and also the exchange of harm reduction supplies.  There are a lot of places that are very resource starved for things like testing kits to ensure the quality of any given drug.  Overdose response in terms of Naloxone.  Naloxone is a very, very safe drug and the only purpose is to stop an opioid overdose and people depend on being able to access that from online marketplaces and they can no longer do so, so when we make decisions based off of fear and liability and hypothetical concerns, we can miss a lot of problems that are happening right in front of our faces, and we're shutting down so many important conversations.  So, in general, if we want to have somber policies, we need to act not out of fear and that would be maybe the first step.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  Okay, so I think Maggie has actually opened up a really interesting avenue for us to go down and that's how do social networking sites come in to play with harm reduction.  We were just told, you know, that there is a lot of groups and things like that on Facebook and other social media websites that engage in trafficking acts, but how do social networking sites clean up this, their own sites?  How do we get them to engage with anti‑trafficking organisations that traditionally won't reach out or have been ignored in the past, or drugs I should say as well.  Does anyone from the panel want to take this?

Okay.  I guess I will have a comment about this because we run Switter, a social network.  One of the problems that we have faced is trying to find the line between harm reduction and safety.  We've reached out to multiple organisations to have help within these circles because where technologists and we only know how to build stuff, so I guess how do we move forward from this if we can't actually get the right help?  How do we ensure that we're building appropriate technology?  Anyone?  Maybe Maggie might have a comment about that one?

>> MAGGIE MAYHEM:  Sure.  I think definitely being able to have a seat at the table is going to be a necessary part of this.  Speaking from one of my other hats on the Instagram platform, there were significant bans on the display of certain body parts, namely, breasts, and there was a large ‑‑ a large group of people who were in dialogue with Instagram who said it's going to be important for us to display breast feeding.  We want to talk about the nurturing of children, we want to talk about childbirth, and these are fair topics to discuss and to share that they're a significant part of people's lives.

And to my surprise, Instagram was very open to having conversations with those stakeholders, and they had a lot of progress, simply by being able to have conversations in the room with the people developing these platforms, and but at no point did they reach out to any communities of drug users or sex workers because they were much more heavily stigmatized than people who are parenting a young child.

So, being able to be in the immediate dialogue and to be included or even considered as worthy of talking to developers would be a very key thing to start changing how policies are made.

>> I want to add to this if that's okay.  One of the reasons why the platforms are not dealing with communities which are prone to harm is also because when we talk about, especially around sex work, there is a huge stigma around sexuality in itself, right.  Why are, like Maggie writes, she pointed out why are breasts not allowed online.  It's not because they're afraid of breast feeding, they're afraid of women owning sexuality.  The present thing is women owning their sexuality.  And until you recognize sexuality as a valid part of the digital world, you will not be able to recognize harm's cost in the name of sexuality, right.

For example, if you will not allow valid consensual sexual expression online, it becomes much harder to recognize non‑consensual sexual expression then, and it becomes harder to recognize non‑consensual sharing of images, it becomes harder to recognize and also listen to people who say that they are being violated online, their concern is being violated.

Right now what the platforms are doing is they have this blanket ban on anything related to sexuality.  This ranges from breastfeeding and checking yourself for breast cancer, examining, self‑examinations for breast cancer which are supposedly the appropriate uses of reasons for showing your breasts, and against sexting or sharing nudes with someone elts or putting it up online consensually.  Right.  This is a very gender problem as well, men can put up shirtless photos online and that's not a problem, a massectomy can put up photos online, but it's only teal breasts which are huge thing that has to be taken up and taken down every single time.

But if you do not see there are valid uses and valid sexual express taking place online you will not be able to recognize harms which are coming up.  Right now, there is cooperation between police departments across countries to deal with child sexual abuse material, right.  They share images, they hash it out, and they have developed codes to make sure that it's not even uploaded on to social media platforms, and that is possible because they decided that this is a bad thing.  When they decide that, nonconsensual sharing of someone's photos, of anything that they consider private, it doesn't have to be your breasts or genital, right.  Some people consider their fist private, but until actions are taken on this based on consent and not on protection and not on sexuality banning, it will not change, and that's what's needed in terms of, you know, what do platforms need to do, right.

And how will this change come about?  By actually listening to what people are saying.  Women are saying that I'm fine with mine being read on Instagram, but Instagram is like no, that's not going to work.

>> MODERATOR:  And I think it even extends even past sharing nudes or explicit images or what is considered explicit images on social media.  This actually happened to me two weeks ago on Instagram where I had been shadow banned for a long time, primarily because of the content that I was sharing.  It wasn't against the guidelines, but it wasn't what they wanted shared in the mainstream.

So there was often in the sex worker community there are tips and tricks of how to sort of remain online and ensure that your account isn't removed, so one of the tricks that was going around a few weeks back was not using hashtags, making sure that you don't use emojis in the actual photo, et cetera, et cetera.  The most shocking one was that if you change your gender on Instagram from female or to prefer not to say, to male, you'll be unshadow banned, and I did this and it happened automatically.  This is not just the case for me, this is the case for multiple people that I know who are sex workers, and I guess this is sort of a great demonstration of how this isn't just a fight for sex workers here.  This something that we're coming up against as women and as queer people as well.  These effects ripple throughout communities extending past sex workers.

>> MODERATOR:  I wanted to open it up to the audience to see if there are any comments about this particular thing?  There are some mics up at the front.  Thank you so much, just so we can all hear you.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Hi.  I'm trying to articulate myself a bit better so bear with me.  I kind of understand where you're coming from.  I also give credit to the delicate balance between harmful and sex work.  So as I'm sitting here, I'm troubled by the title itself because sex work, harm reduction, and you have drug.  I'm thinking like what the hell?  How do I start work ?g.

And I think the question that I have for the panel is this conversation in some ways dangers the decriminalization of sex workers around the world of how we see sex workers, and maybe I missed because I came a little bit late, maybe I missed the contextual work that I don't know, or how it comes into space, specifically with the ongoing mobile movement among feminist, and so I'm a bit worried about this conversation being threatening to the work that has been done around that and maybe harmful was not the right word or harmful from what or for who?  Are we talking about like, for example, digital security?  Are we talking about who and what perspective?  I think it's very important, otherwise it's you pushing back what has been done so far, amazingly, and then you playing into a very muddy space, so yeah.

>> I think it's not to say that there hasn't been work done in the space already.  There has been a huge amount of progress in the last 20 years.  Can you hear me?

There has been a huge amount of work done in the last 50 years or whatever, but I guess the point at the moment is that we are still in an age where we're being left out of conversation, we're still in an age where policy and laws are being developed without our input, and with input from people who may not have any experience with sex work, and we're still governed by the laws.  The perfect example of this, and the ramifications of that, even though this law was passed in the U.S., people outside of the U.S. have very much felt the affects.  In Australia even, we saw people being denied houses, denied jobs and this is also in combination with stigma, but like the ‑‑ the effects of this really do affect everyone and not just the U.S.

>> I think that's a excellent point and part of ‑‑ I believe in this panel, but I think it's a terrene we have to negotiate.  I think that the harm reduction is what ties it together.  We're not saying that sex work is harmful or that drugs are harmful, but yeah.  So I don't want to confuse people, but, yeah, it's ‑‑ it is about harm because sex workers experience harm and drug work ‑‑ people that use drugs also are exposed to harm, and it is really culturally relative ‑‑ not culturally relative, but these practices are different everywhere and have different meanings so I can, yeah, I think we could be a bit more nuanced and I think it really depends where you are.  When you're in a country where sex work is legal, it's the first IGF I've seen that you can get a beer in the food area.  I'm not a big fan of alcohol myself and I find that a bit weird, so in South Africa, you can only get alcohol from in very limited circumstances.  But in Germany, it seems to flow like wine.  In South Africa, we seem to have more problem with alcohol and violence.  Those two intersect in very dangerous ways, so yeah I'm interested ‑‑ maybe it's something about the social fabric and I have no idea, but these are ‑‑ yeah.  These are sensitive issues that need to be grounded in context.

>> MODERATOR:  Yes, from the audience?

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you very much.  It's very interesting.  My name is Susy Hargrave are from the Internet Launch soip system in the UK, reporting on child sexual abuse, and so the area and subject of this session is not my expertise but I would like to say in relation to Internet companies, social media and people taking action against child sexual abuse, it's not because they think it's bad.  It's because it's illegal and it's really clearly defined in law, and one of the issues which we have in the UK, and we're about to bring in legislation on online harms, there are 23 harms, and they're not defined in law, and we're going to have a regulator and the whole issue around harm as opposed to a legality is how do you define it?  So what one person's harm is another person's okayness, and you know a great example of there for us is, for instance, children looking at pornography.  Pornography is legal in the UK but children looking at it is not and it's clearly harmful so giving the definition to the challenge and applies to the conversation you're having.  But when you get to a content like child sexual abuse, I think that's noncontroversial really.  Thank you.

>> I agree in the respect it should be noncontroversial and should be easy to get it off.  But when dealing with law enforcement and things like that, it's actually been quite difficult for us as organisations to do that and I think that's also one of the conversations I would love to see come out of this is better conversations between government, private industry around drug and sexual content.

Did anyone want to respond to this?  Oh, there is another question from the audience.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  This is more of a comment than a question, but I think it's important to differentiate between bad and illegal because in some cases, they're not the same thing.  So, all I can think of is examples like from, is it Saudi Arabia where women cannot leave the country or travel without specific permission from the guardian, which is legal there, but the rest of the world thinks it's bad so that's just my comment on legal and good are not the same things.

>> I think we have to have our ‑‑ I want to give a speech in a perspective on sex workers because most of the society and most of the country do not take the perspective from sex workers because and historically, they want to take the lower policy on their perspective, not for the sex workers, and I think we need to talk about the law or policy of that which the sex workers really want, and we need to talk about ‑‑ we need to talk about what is the definition of safety for sex workers, truly?

So, always I'm begging for people to take a perspective from sex workers.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  My name is Andre from University Research classical economics and I would like to ask a question concerning the issues of human trafficking.  I think both sex work and drug issues are also linked with the human trafficking, and which efforts could be done by using electronic means for preventing human trafficking, which is illegal all over the world.  Thank you very much.

>> MODERATOR:  So, I think that regarding human trafficking, we really have to look at trafficking on a border scale outside of just six.  When you look at other forms of trafficking such as agriculture or fisheries, et cetera, you tend for find again and again that trafficking exists where labor acts don't, and it's really no surprise that there is a lot of sex trafficking that does happen because in most of the world, sex work is criminalized.

The answer to that, I think, is to start to develop policies which actually do give sex workers the ability to manage themselves and to be able to go to authority when is they need to, to seek the services they need to and resources.  Without this, we're just going to continue seeing human trafficking again and again and again and again, it's not going to go away.  We can't, similar to like many black markets, if you keep pushing things underground, they're not going to get any better.

>> I recommend most ‑‑ I recommend all the people divide trafficking and sex working.  Because sex working and sex work is not trafficking, and we ‑‑ most of us, sex workers regard trafficking as illegal and we should punish trafficking by laws strictly so we are always begging and recommend divided trafficking and sex work.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  May I reply.  Actually, one moment.  But what about the issue of slavery, actually?  Forms of slavery, which also the reasons of slavery is one of the most popular reasons for people being enslaved, in slavery is forced sex working and forced drug trafficking as well.

So we need to ‑‑ of course, we need to ‑‑ I think that we are here for to make more tolerant policies, but we need also to make a security balance here because this is really the problem, especially for developing states so that human trafficking and slavery is really a big issue, so I think we should not forget about it.  Thank you.

>> I think it's also the note as well, I mean, we saw this with Fosta when that was passed in the U.S., but in places where regulation has been put in place without sex workers involvement, we have seen an increase in the conflation of sex trafficking and sex work.  When we start defining consensual sex workers as trafficking victims, things become very muddy and it's very confusing, so when we can't actually define who is a sex trafficking victim and who isn't, we're going into new territory all the together, right.

So criminalizing it and further putting pressure on it isn't going to help.

>> MODERATOR:  We also have a comment or a question in the audience.

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I wonder because it's really ‑‑ yesterday we had an event, we were talking about sexuality and governance.  One of the communities that was named as the one that are not listened to and not able to attend and deimplement themes selves are sex workers and people in the prison.  Not all the people in prison are, you know, all the politician.  But what I find interesting is the double morality that we constantly apply all over the place, and also because sex workers, people that choose this work, because I think that we need to start patronizing which work and what people do, but really to try to understand that those people contribute to society, contribute to their lives and their families, whose securities design against and upon them because very often the fact that there is a stigma, a cultural rooted stigma, then is used to put the blanket to anyone else that doesn't fit this one, this one that I would say, it's rooted in very specific and very ecologicallist country, let's talk where from it comes, no?  Because there are many cultures and not all the culturing stigmatize it the same way, no.  So where are the governments, because the people in the government use sex workers, use drugs, this still every now and then.  They don't pay any time the consequences, except if their friends may pay the consequence so their names are not told.  But let's talk about citizens that make choices and use the capital, and I find very important that we talk about labor rights because this is at the core of everything.  We have laborers and workers that are surveilled in their works and others are just prevented from doing their work, and I think that the two are different line or what's done is happening to anyone else that doesn't fit.

>> MODERATOR:  So we're running out of time and I just want to say thank you to the IGF and the volunteers and audience for coming together and bringing this all together.  I'm just going to go around the panelists for final remarks.  Do we just want to start off with Maggie?

>> MAGGIE MAYHEM:  So, one of the things that I think we should also consider is that whenever we have laws, that they are enforced through very racialized, very gendered, and very classed mechanisms.  So the people who are going to face the harshest enforcement are always going to be the people who are likely to be more stigmatized or at the lower strata of society.

When we look at different questions like trafficking, I think first and foremost, we need to ask why is any given group of people vulnerable to exploitation and what can we do to best address those vulnerabilities?

Right now we have very different legal definitions between smuggling and trafficking, and there is a great deal of very interesting philosophical difference.  If you are someone who is bringing a consensual worker across a border to do work in a different country, you're smuggling, but that's a word that we more often use for men coming in to do manual labor or work of that kind of genre.  But if you bring a woman across the border, whether or not she chose to be there, if she's working in a industry, she is more likely to be considered trafficked and has no agency, and there are very economic reasons like people are moving from place to place to do the work that they're doing and the labels that we use to define what they're doing have ‑‑ they reveal a lot about our biases and our perspectives.

And when it comes to drugs, I think there is also something very similar.  These are topics that are being presented together.  I work in both field, but I love talking about both, but to always look at these labels, look at enforcement, and to always acknowledge that we're going to punish the people that use drugs who have the least power.  In the United States we have different enforcement for cocaine versus crack cocaine and one is associated with the rich and one is more associated with the poor, so how does power play out into enforcement and how can make sure that there is equity in our society?  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  Awesome.

>> Mine is super short, but I guess if you're going to take something away from today, just keep in mind that there are over 40 million sex workers in the world right now, and you likely will know someone that obviously isn't out to you or is out to you.  Every time that you don't call someone out for saying something that is homophobic, it does damage to us, it has a ripple effect, and it limits services that we can access and so call people out and keep in mind that people around you are sex workers and, yeah, keep us in mind.

>> Yeah.  I'm fully supportive of this panel and this workshop.  I think it's an issue that we need to discuss and I think, yeah, there is some kind of pushback from the marnl nallized about the focus on the harms and that, yeah, sex work and drugs create harms and we have to crack down on them and keep them off the Internet.  And then, yeah, the lady who raise the question about are we doing damage, and I think she left the room, and she did raise some uncomfortable questions and it's very relative and you have to look at the national environments to see where policy is positive, where policy is informed by evidence, and how it intersects with the Internet.

What I think this points to is perhaps a research gap as well, so we don't actually ‑‑ a lot of the research is anecdotal and a lot of the research subjects are stigmatized and then hard to speak to, so yeah.  We do need to have research and evidence‑based policy as to how to counter trafficking of people and also allow for people to enjoy their sexual and labor rights and for people also not to be stigmatized for using substance when is they may be sick or they just may be exercising freedom.

>> I think I would end by saying I hope at the next IGF there are more sex workers in the room that can speak directly rather than people ‑‑ because all of us do work and I'm not saying that that's a wrong thing, being if.  We do need to support, but I think that there is a need for making concentrated efforts to bringing certain groups here.

This is ‑‑ sex workers definitely, but also people from non‑english speaking backgrounds, people who are queer and trans and non‑binary, from smaller cities and not the big metro cities.  It's also important to have IGF in a place which is accessible, which is not where there is not a barrier.  So I think I would like to end with that.  That I hope there are more diverse people here to speak about all of these issues at the next IGF.  Thank you.

>> MODERATOR:  Again.  I want to thank all of our amazing panelists.  I want to leave with a final remark.  The Internet experienced a lot of censorship over the last few years.  Folks in the margins are being systemically pushed off the Internet worldwide.  It is our job to ensure Civil Society and private industry and most importantly as humans that we do everything in our power to prevent further harm.  Thank you very much.

(Applause)

(session completed at 12:34 p.m)

 

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411