To prevent sex trafficking the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate worked together in passing updates to the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Instead, FOSTA shut down of Furry dating sites, Reddit forums, and the Craigslist’s Personals section. Other forums are removing link materials to intended to assist new authors writing erotic content. Worse yet, a great number of people now question the impact FOSTA will have on sex workers. Yes, there’s even a hashtag to raise awareness for those impacted by FOSTA. Clearly, authors writing controversial subjects need to take note of this issue.
Authors are already panicking over the new updates to FOSTA. This is to be expected, especially given how many authors still remember the impact of Operation Choke Point. For those who recall the tough government sponsored crackdown, the collateral damage surrounding efforts to stop sex trafficking is nothing new. Ironically, the first victim’s of Operation Choke Point were those same sex workers now advocating for raised awareness in dealing with FOSTA. The crackdown didn’t just impact sex workers, but websites like Lot’s Cave and our authors as well by causing credit card processors to drop us. While most businesses accepted Operation Choke Point, Backpage resisted. Smashwords was in the forefront of erotic authors resistance. Today, many are arguing it is for these reasons that the updates to FOSTA were put in place.
Backpage’s defense against Operation Choke Point lay in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This protection stated, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Basically, the government couldn’t hold Backpage responsible for what users of their website published from outside sources. To many, this was a legal loophole that must be closed. The updates to FOSTA do just that, standing to hold websites responsible for what users of the website publish or post. FOSTA attempts to hold websites responsible for facilitating, or making it easier, for sex traffickers to thrive.
The impact on websites like Reddit and Craigslist is easy to see. Users generating posts or content that advertises sex trafficking or its victims could easily fall into the facilitation category. What is murky however, is the role Erotica ebooks and even some Romances play in the new FOSTA regulations. It is worth noting that FOSTA overwhelmingly punishes sex workers, or platforms that can easily be abused in favor of sex trafficking. What was once safe, when abused, becomes a means or platform to do the most harm. The catch-22 situation is not as easy as legislation would like it to be.
For authors of controversial content however, there’s a fine line to walk. It’s always advisable to purchase boundary pushing photo stock from credible photo stock sites like Depositphotos or Bigstock. Controversial stories are arguably safe to publish, but that doesn’t mean platforms to do so will be plentiful. It would be difficult to assert that a story featuring controversial content facilitates sex trafficking, but that doesn’t mean people won’t make that very argument. After all, there’s always been some debate surrounding non-consent and dubious consent books, along with the ever popular BDSM titles. What was once popular, may now find itself the source of hot debate.
But do authors need to protect themselves? Not really. What is there to protect? Either your book promotes (or facilitates) sex trafficking, or it doesn’t. There doesn’t even need to be a debate surrounding the nature of free speech. While it is possible to do so, it just seems quite unnecessary. Authors don’t need to be THAT concerned about the updates to FOSTA. This opportunity though is a great reminder that the quality of your book and its content matters a great deal. Authors might consider what public good does the story contain, and write in some ‘moral to the story’ end note paragraph. This is ultimately what we would encourage our authors to consider in the wake of FOSTA. The better the quality and content of your book, the better your chances are of not having an issue with FOSTA.
When authors consider the packaging of their product, certain messages get across to potential buyers. Telling readers your book is erotic, helps to deal with the negativity surrounding the issue for those who dislike such content to begin with. A little bit of class also goes a long way to smoothing over some residual tension. Titles like, “Sex Trafficking My Hot Daughter!” probably aren’t a good idea. For authors writing dubious consent or non-consent themes, consider your titles a bit more carefully. While “Sex Trafficking My Hot Daughter!” probably isn’t a workable title, “Seducing My Slutty Daughter” is. Along with that, properly categorizing your book is even more essential. If there’s a dub-con or non-con category and it fits your book… use it!
The Lot’s Cave analysis of the FOSTA update is that its intention is to prevent and/or stop the facilitation of sex trafficking on websites mainly through advertising and eventual sale of sex trafficking victims. In no way would an erotic book do this. The FOSTA update stresses the act of actual sale, or conspiracy to facilitate a sale by way of advertising. Our platform on Lot’s Cave cannot do this, and as such, works as a preventative measure. In no way does our website endorse or encourage sex trafficking. Many of our authors will also discover their publishing platforms likewise do not find themselves in violation of FOSTA. Overall, our analysis is that FOSTA is difficult to violate as it is currently written, unless you are in fact, knowingly or intentionally, violating U.S. laws already.
In closing, it’s always a great idea to remember that fallout with controversial content is inevitable. At times, it is easy to get carried away though. Not every government crackdown is out to get us. Those pursuing new laws can get a bit overzealous, and with time, it will be sorted out. Until then, understanding FOSTA and what it intends to prohibit helps. Ensuring that your book doesn’t provoke such sensibilities is often the correct choice, and makes it all a little easier to do business. Lot’s Cave encourages all of our authors to consider quality, and the foot you put forward to the customer. At times, your customers can be your best resource… and friend.
Please Note: This post is purely opinion and should in no way be considered legal advice. You are responsible for any action taken on this advice and resume sole responsibility. Lot’s Cave, Inc. will not be held liable.