Tag Archives: twitter

Twitter Day of Action: Caroline Flint’s Anti-Sex Worker Bigotry

LONDON: Sex & Censorship announces social media campaign for Tuesday 8th March in response to The Labour MP Caroline Flint’s anti-sex worker statements and actions.

Sex & Censorship calls on sex workers and their supporters to join a day of social media action against the misrepresentation of sex work and sex workers. Please read on to see how you can help.

What a difference a few days makes. Last week, as reported here, Jeremy Corbyn expressed support for the decriminalisation of sex work; it should be noted that his statement was made informally, and is not a statement of party policy. Still, this was a first for a Labour leader.

This stirred up the powerful anti-sex work contingent within the Labour Party, including Caroline Flint MP, who sent a number of outraged (and outrageous) tweets, including this:

These claims are, of course, often made, yet never backed by serious statistical evidence. Do people like this really care about sex workers? Well, quite obviously not. The proof is in the way that Flint and others treat the workers themselves: by ignoring and silencing them.

Zara du Rose, a pornstar and sex worker, tweeted to Flint asking for evidence to back her claim. She was swiftly blocked. Du Rose wrote on her Facebook page:

So I’ve just been blocked on Twitter by Labour MP Caroline Flint MP

She made a comment stating that “few people” in the sex industry are there by choice.

I simply asked her if she had put any research into her comment & if she has the statistics to back it up. Does my question really deserve that result?

If this is how people in the government react when they are faced with an honest debate, then it’s no wonder so many voices are going unheard! The wrong decisions will be made & more sex workers will be put at risk if they go ahead with criminalising the buying of sex.

And the blocking continued. Dominatrix Megara Furie was also blocked for responding to Flint, as were sex worker activist Charlotte Rose, and National Ugly Mugs, a sex worker safety campaign. As ever, the message of abolitionists is: “We’re trying to save you, whether you want to be saved or not. Now shut up!”

How Can You Respond to Caroline Flint?

Sex workers and their supporters can make their voices heard as outlined below. Please note:

  1. Don’t be abusive – be polite. Don’t send multiple tweets. Take the moral high ground.
  2. Please wait until tomorrow (Tuesday) morning – then send one of the tweets below.

Here’s how to tweet:

If you’re a sex worker

Please copy and send the following tweet (feel free to adapt it but include the link and hashtag to maximise impact). Send your sex worker friends this link and ask them to join. We can get this issue trending and make news!

Dear @CarolineFlintMP – I choose to be a sex worker. Sex workers demand decriminalisation! http://ow.ly/Z9TkH #decrimsexwork

If you’re not a sex worker

Copy and send the following tweet. Again, free free to adapt. Alert your sex worker friends and supporters and ask them to join.

Dear @CarolineFlintMP – sex workers want to work safely. Criminalising clients does NOT achieve that! http://ow.ly/Z9TkH #decrimsexwork

After tweeting Flint, feel free to continue using the hashtag.

You can also adapt these and post on Facebook (note that Flint has her own Facebook page).

Quotes

Jerry Barnett from Sex & Censorship: “Flint’s comments are a reminder of the strength of anti-sex work feeling that remains in the Labour Party and elsewhere. Claims of widespread abuse and coercion are never backed by hard evidence, yet they continue in circulation. Flint is typical of activists who show contempt for the very sex workers they claim to be helping.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes: “Our question to Flint would be that if she wants an “anti-prostitution strategy” why isn’t it supporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s determined campaigns against benefit sanctions, the benefit cap, homelessness, low wages, zero hours contracts, etc? Regarding her comment that women are vulnerable and exploited. Our fact and fiction sheet reports research that shows that only 6% of sex workers are trafficked: http://www.pledgedecrim.com/#!fact-and-fiction/c9ik

Alex Bryce of National Ugly Mugs: “I am thoroughly disappointed by Caroline Flint’s conduct. As an elected official who has served in Government she has a duty to use her platform responsibly. She publicly expressed misinformed and, in my opinion, dangerous and stigmatising views about sex workers. Such comments entrench stigma which, in turn, can lead to the targeting of sex workers by violent individuals. When sex workers and organisations like mine, which provides life saving support to sex workers, responded to her comments she immediately decided to block them rather than engage in any meaningful debate. If she genuinely cared about the safety of sex workers then she would engage them and listen to their voices rather than silencing them. She should be thoroughly ashamed of her actions. It is tragic that elected representatives have so little regard for evidence and the voices of those most affected by the policies for which they advocate.”

I asked some sex workers what they would say to Flint, given the opportunity?

Charlotte Rose: “1st, what have you got against sex workers? 2nd, would you be open to come and discuss face to face with real sex workers? 3rd if you support democracy why have you blocked us?”

Laura Renvoize: “I’d say, in reality many countries recognise sex work as an industry. To continuously vilify sex work as crime is to perpetuate Victorian morals and harmful exclusionary “feminism”. As a sex worker the issues I have faced in sex work haven’t come from some kind of exploitation at all, but rather from the stigma perpetuated by public figures and the law, which leads institutions to treat me as a subhuman. If she claims to care so much about our safety then why isn’t she looking at the evidence or listening to us? Forcing us to be criminalised won’t stop sex work, it’s only going to force us to work with people now branded as criminals, forcing us into situations where exploitation could exist. This is my job, listen to me about it and try to not be so moralistic about other people’s sex lives.”

Megara Furie: “I would ask her to simply qualify her statements. As a trained scientist I learned to deal in facts. She has made a very bold and so far, unsubstantiated statement. I need to see how she intends to validate this and see sex workers on the other end of the scale be given a fair opportunity to put forward their facts and have them taken into respectful consideration. Plain and simple. If prostitution is part of organised crime then she sits with rackets in parliament, as I’m sure there are more than a few MPs who have used the services of sex workers or contributed to their motivation to work in the industry.”

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Zara du Rose: “Why are you so determined to silence the sex workers who are trying to open an honest dialogue with you? All we have asked is where you got your facts from when you claim that ‘most’ of us are in it by force. For you to block every sex worker who is trying to tell you THEIR story is proving that you don’t care about anyone in that industry at all. Listen to the women who have made it their choice to be sex workers, you may learn something! Criminalising the buying or selling of sex will only make the vulnerable people out there more alienated & push them further underground. We need to start changing the way we view sex & women’s choices!”

A Beginner’s Guide to the Block Bot

[Editor’s note: it was with incredulity that I first heard about The Block Bot, a piece of software that automatically blocks Twitter users chosen by the Block Bot team, which has made itself judge, jury and executioner in deciding whose tweets should not be seen. The author of this piece is a law student who has decided to take legal action against the Bot team: read on for details… I encourage readers to support his action – see Go Fund Me link at the bottom.]

The internet is a dynamic place. As a new and increasingly important part of our lives the datasphere has really only existed for a few decades. I remember getting my first ‘proper’ internet email account at University in the late 1990s. It is natural therefore that society is still trying to find the right balance between freedom and regulation.

Society does need to draw lines. I personally draw the line at children, animals, dead people and ‘real’ violence. On the other hand, to invert something a senior Labour Party official once said to me, “There is censorship, and then there is taking the f***ing piss”. The Block Bot falls hard into the latter category.

The Block Bot, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is a subscription service to ‘protect’ users of Twitter from ‘harassment’. The Bot project maintains a database of ‘bad’ users of Twitter. When you sign up to the Block Bot it blocks them for you, 24 / 7. Silently and automatically, people are removed from your timeline.

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The problems with the Block Bot are twofold –

The first major problem is that whilst it bills itself as protecting people from ‘harassers’ it in fact blocks many people who are merely political opponents of the Block Bot. The small print of the Block Bot project shows it has three levels of iniquity and, whilst the definitions have regularly changed, the current definition for Level 3 is, “This may include, but is not limited to, accounts that appear to frequently engage in microagressions, parrot tired talking points, show a sense of entitlement to have a conversation, exhibit a lack respect for the lived experience of others, etc.”https://archive.is/fVeaM

The Block Bot list contains Professor Richard Dawkins, Beatrix Campbell OBE and at one stage it it even included Barack Obama, although he was eventually removed. Users of the Block Bot are told who is blocked on the sign up page, although as there are around 10,000 usernames to read in tiny print it is infeasible for most people to read it. There are no further mechanisms to notify subscribers of blocks afterwards, although the Block Bot account tweets out the occasional unblock. Individuals have been explicitly added for no better reason than being humanists.

The second major problem is that the Block Bot maintains a database of the alleged ‘offences’ committed by people on the list. Professor Richard Dawkins is listed for (amongst other things) ‘#racist’, ‘#childabuseapologism’. Whilst Dawkins is many things he is neither racist nor a child abuse apologist. Beatrix Campbell OBE is listed on the bot for ‘freazepeach’ (supporting free speech is an offence … to the Block Bot team).

The database has usually been publicly searchable although it has been up and down recently following threats of legal action and its use as a back-end to search software written by opponents.

Silently, political views are removed from the world view of those who use the bot, enclosing them in an echo chamber bubble. At the same time, they will be interacting with the Block Bot team. Its administrators are best described as members of the extreme left – a noxious variation of the Tumblr tendency based around a hard left forum called, ‘Atheism Plus’ who take offence … easily. Members of the community are occasionally made an example of for deviating from the approved line.

It is like joining a kind of ‘stealth’ virtual cult, which rather than physically intern its subscribers in a compound somewhere, mentally interns them in a so-called ‘safe space’ in which dissenting views are excluded and the occasional initiate is dragged screaming from the ‘room’ as a warning to others – deterring anyone from following suit.

The Block Bot is subject to significant rate restrictions. For a new sign up it can only block 1 person per minute. That means that running 24 / 7 it will take a week to complete the initial block list. Existing users are subject to similar restrictions.

The end result is rather unhealthy. An automated online tool, the Block Bot does not rapidly block offenders but instead locks them in a sealed room with its administrators. The echo chamber does not brook dissent and of course the Block Bot team deliberately insulate themselves from complaints, which they regard as ‘harassment’.

All that changed earlier this year. After making a video critical of the Block Bot I was added to the list as a ‘Level 1’, ‘Troll’ and when I served two block bot administrators with letters before action all hell broke loose. Unable to comprehend that there might be other points of view they reported me to the police. The police are under a statutory duty to investigate and initially they did. One police force even served me with a ‘notice of harassment’ allegation. After an investigation that has now been rescinded. The police concluded that my actions were not harassment.

Now the boot is on the other foot. I have started County Court proceedings against Block Bot creator James Billingham, who lives in the UK. Readers will judge for themselves whether it is legal to –

  • Maintain an ‘offenders’ database and add people for sexual allegations without telling them
  • Not register the database with the ICO
  • Make the database searchable online
  • Write a ‘John Scalzi’ quotes bot to tweet snide remarks at aggrieved persons who contact you instead of having a clearly defined appeals procedure

Answers on a postcard. I am bringing a small claim for £1,000 under the recent ruling versus Google that persons whose data protection rights are breached are entitled to moral damages. In itself that is not enough to bankrupt Billingham or end the Block Bot. However, there are over ten thousand people on the bot. If I win Billingham could be looking at a seven-figure bill. Q – if a tenth of the list, (say 1,000 people) sue for £1,000 damages each, what is the bill if they win?

Litigation is always risky, although I have had three positive second opinions. I am running a Go Fund Me as a way to minimise risks. If you want a laugh, chuck in a £20, would you? If there is any money left at the end it will be spent on a London meet up for members of an anti-censorship, pro-consumer, pro-ethics group called KotakuInAction (free to join).

Sam Smith is an LPC Law Student who writes Matthew Hopkins News under the pseudonym Matthew Hopkins. Smith has been praised in Parliament for his pro-bono work as a McKenzie Friend. A former Labour Councillor, Sam Smith is now a member of the Conservative Party. Please back his Go Fund Me here. He can be followed on Twitter as @MHWitchfinder.

Alert: Domme Directory Webmaster Arrested “For Tweeting”!

This week saw draconian policing directed towards the dominatrix listing site, Professional Mistresses (NSFW). There can be little doubt this was done to “send a message”. UK censors seem to have a particular bee in their bonnet about BDSM, and also Twitter, for its defence of free expression, including sexual expression, regularly comes under attack from UK authorities and media.

So it’s not too surprising that last Sunday, the site’s webmaster was arrested at his home, taken to his local police station, and questioned for two hours before being de-arrested. The arrest seemed to have been triggered following a complaint about the site’s tweets being “unsuitable for children”. It should be noted at this point that sending out tweets or any other communication “unsuitable for children” is not illegal! As we know, THINK OF THE CHILDREN is standard fare for people wanting to ban legal things.

The webmaster explained in an email to his list:

“… late on Sunday afternoon, a marked police car attended my property and arrested me. The arrest was made by my local police force who had received a complaint from the Thames Valley police area, due to what they claim were tweets on the Professional Mistress twitter account, that was unsuitable for children (or that’s the excuse they gave). I spent 2 hours being interviewed before being de-arrested…

During the 2 hours, they showed me a couple of examples of tweets, which were just links to promoting mistresses on the site and also a retweet of another mistresses. I made it very clear that there was nothing illegal about my directory site or tweets, but they refused to give me a reason why they felt it was… A brief mention of trafficking was brought up, but I knocked that on the head within minutes, pointing out whilst I vet profiles, in great detail, I am not the “pimp” for those listed on the site.”

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Also note the chilling mention of “trafficking”, which has become the standard excuse for anti-prostitution campaigners determined to blur the clear lines between illegal immigration and legal sex work.

Why are police arresting people for non-crimes? It’s unlikely this was an accident or a coincidence, and I also seriously doubt whether the complaint came from an outraged member of the public.

The UK authorities often appear to be outraged that Twitter, a US-based service, and so with its free speech protected by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, operates in the UK, where we (sadly) have no legal defences against state censorship. Expect more UK attacks against the BDSM, porn and sex work communities and against users of Twitter, coming soon.

#CensoredUK – Day of Action – Thursday 12 December 2013

Online day of action: #CensoredUK Thursday 12th December. Please copy and send the following tweet (and see below for more sample tweets) – and follow us on Twitter.

For three decades, the UK has been sleepwalking into censorship. It would be inaccurate to say we still are: now we are running at full speed! Most of the censorship measures have been introduced under the banner of “protecting children”; now we are told our children are under threat from the Internet. And yet no reliable evidence of a threat has been produced.

On the contrary, a generation has grown up with Internet access, and teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest since 1969. Since domestic violence cases peaked at over 1.1m in 1993, they have fallen by over 70%. And these trends don’t just affect the UK. In the United States, rates of sexual violence fell by 64% from 1995 to 2010.

But the evidence doesn’t deter those who want to limit access to the Internet for British citizens. This Thursday, a conference will take place in London, aimed at persuading the government that even more controls are needed – again, to “protect children.”

This Thursday, please use the #CensoredUK hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and other social media to register your opposition to any further moves to censor the Internet: the UK must have the same access to information as citizens in other democratic countries.

Here are some sample tweets you can copy and adapt… or just write your own (and don’t forget the hashtag). Let’s get this M***F**** trending!

  1. Join the #CensoredUK online day of action! Click for details: http://bit.ly/1aUtIsn
  2. Is the UK sleepwalking into censorship? http://onforb.es/1gYULrT #CensoredUK
  3. Cameron: UK will block “extremist” web sites http://bit.ly/1jMkeHv #CensoredUK
  4. Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin to introduce Internet filters http://bbc.in/J4JNVX #CensoredUK
  5. China praises UK Internet censorship plans http://bit.ly/1hM5aKj #CensoredUK
  6. Tim Berners-Lee warns of Internet censorship rise http://bit.ly/19BfjRT #CensoredUK
  7. UK “porn filter” will also censor political speech http://bit.ly/18B4dfN #CensoredUK
  8. “Porn filter” will also block conspiracy theories http://bit.ly/IP1b0j #CensoredUK
  9. British companies are blocking gay websites http://bit.ly/J4Li6l #CensoredUK
  10. Why is the UK the most censored country in Europe? http://bit.ly/1hMfNwH #CensoredUK
  11. British Library censors Hamlet as “too violent” http://bbc.in/1e4QMfQ #CensoredUK