port of harlem magazine
Mosaic Theater
Petition To Stop Law Silencing Legal Sexual Expression
Oct 20 – Nov 02, 2022
woodhull foundation

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the national advocacy organization for sexual rights, has launched a petition demanding Senators meet with Woodhull and other groups concerned about the controversial EARN IT Act. The EARN IT Act incentivizes internet platforms to broadly censor legal speech under the pretense of pursuing illegal content.

“This attack on internet freedom is an attack on the First Amendment, and an attack on human rights,” says Ricci Joy Levy, President and CEO of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. “The EARN IT Act allows the government to strong arm private companies into censoring legal speech that the government itself is prohibited from censoring. We can and should work to stop illegal content, but such efforts should not be used to silence legal sexual expression.”

Companies and individuals who use social media to reach people to educate and empower themselves sexually have already found that Facebook often rejects their education messages for “promoting sexual pleasure,” and violating their “decency” standards said social worker Veronica Urguilla at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit held earlier this year.

She helped create and promote The SHE Campaign in majority Black Prince George’s County, Maryland for young women aged 18-30 to “promote sexual health and awareness.” The Facebook advertisement included a “Valentine Day Checklist.” The checklist included: conversations about sexual expectations/needs, update COVID-19 vaccination card, complete STD/STI exam, COVID 19 tests, dental dames, condoms, and lubes. “The Facebook practice limited our opportunities to share sexual health messaging,” continued clinical professional counselor Ann Wisemen.

The EARN IT Act would make internet platforms legally liable for any illegal sexual content posted to their platforms or service even if they aggressively block and immediately remove such content. At a time when anyone can upload an image and have it appear instantaneously online, EARN IT would leave almost every site vulnerable to bad actors and immediate legal liability. To avoid any potential liability, platforms would have little choice but to block any account sharing sex-related content.

The EARN IT Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2022 on a unanimous vote. Since then the bill has attracted additional bipartisan co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. EARN IT has been opposed by a wide range of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Library Association (ALA), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Sex Workers Project, the Free Speech Coalition, Fight for the Future, Reframe Health and Justice, GLAAD, the Wikimedia Foundation, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and dozens of other sex worker, civil liberties and free speech groups.

“With election season upon us and a growing political panic around sexual expression, it’s more important than ever for us to educate our legislators on the dangers of this bill,” says Levy. “Our petition will help us show legislators the scope of the human rights opposition to this bill. EARN IT would be a dramatic escalation of government censorship we saw with FOSTA, a bill that has harmed countless people.’

Woodhull Freedom Foundation is a named plaintiff in the ongoing legal challenge to FOSTA, a 2018 law that decimated safer, online spaces for sex workers under the pretense of pursuing sex traffickers. Woodhull is currently funding a study at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to document the real world effect of the bill on sex workers.
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