Avery, a sex worker, lost her first Twitter account in early 2020, built her followers back up, and then early this year was kicked off again.
When she went to set up a third account, she found she could no longer use the name she had been using for sex work and adult content — she’d lost her entire brand, including thousands of followers and many clients who only knew her by her former, banned name.
“I had to change my name, because I don’t want to get suspended again,” she said.
“And it can still happen. It’s honestly terrifying to me.”
Sex workers say they’re being kicked off social media as part of a wave of “digital gentrification” and a trend towards “sanitised” online spaces.
Being able to advertise cheaply online has allowed sex workers in general to work more safely and independently than had been the case before.
But in recent years, they say, the tide has turned — and now that change appears to be accelerating.
“Countless” sex workers have lost their accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in recent weeks, according to Australia’s peak sex worker organisation, the Scarlet Alliance.
Similar reports are coming from the United States, with no consensus on why it’s happening now.
Jenna Love, a sex worker of nine years who recently lost her Instagram account of 17,000 followers, said there appears to have been a “crackdown” in recent months.
“People are losing their accounts,” she said.
How US laws changed the Australian sex work industry
On top of these perceived changes, many sex workers are also worried about the proposed Australian Online Safety Bill, which gives authorities the power to take down online content judged to be unfit for minors, and to set “basic safety expectations” for platforms and websites.
Sex workers are worried this could give platforms even more incentive to ban them.
To understand these concerns, it’s worth backtracking to mid-2018, when then-US president Donald Trump signed into law the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).
The legislation to target sex trafficking made online platforms liable for any content that advertised sex work.
Overnight, many sex workers found they had no way of reaching clients, Ms Love said.
“That first week afterwards, I don’t even know how to quantify how many people I heard of that were instantly affected,” she said.
“They instantly couldn’t pay their rent that week and didn’t know how they were going to put food on the table for their families.
“Some of them turned to [advertising in the street] for the first time.”
As a result of the shutdown of these websites, Ms Love and other sex workers have come to rely on social media to reach clients. Ninety per cent of her business comes via Twitter.
The Online Safety Bill, she said, appeared “hauntingly reminiscent” of FOSTA.
Commissioner has power to take down X18+ content
The bill has two parts that worry sex workers.
First, it allows the eSafety Commissioner to issue a removal notice for advertisements classified as X18+, R18+ or RC (Refused Classification).
The Scarlet Alliance says this definition is too broad: RC can include bondage and X18+ is defined as anything “unsuitable for a minor to see”.
Zahra Stardust, a researcher at the University of NSW, said the X18+ category prohibits any kind of fetish “from bondage, to spanking, to candle wax”.
In response to these concerns, a spokesperson for the eSafety Commissioner said that, under existing laws, the Commissioner already had the power to issue takedown notices for this kind of content.
But they have chosen to not make this a priority — instead focusing on child sexual abuse.
“Our regulatory approach has always been to prioritise content depicting child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as material that incites, instructs or promotes terrorism or violent extremism,” the spokesperson said.
“This approach will not change under the new act.”
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, however, made a similar point, though it also said sex workers should not post X-rated ads.
“Those wanting to advertise services online should make sure that the content of their advertisements is not classified or likely to be classified as X18+, R18+ or Refused Classification,” a spokesperson said.
In effect, only a non-binding and informal “regulatory approach” stands in the way of the government using the laws to ban ads for sex workers, Dr Stardust said.
“The Commissioner is asking sex workers to simply trust that she will choose not to exercise her power to remove their content,” she said.
“This is hardly reassuring, primarily because there are no consequences for her if she does.”
Concerns ‘safety expectations’ will incentivise deplatforming
Aside from the powers given to the Commissioner, the Scarlet Alliance is concerned about the part of the proposed legislation that allows the Communications Minister to set “basic online safety expectations for social media services”.
This includes the expectation that platforms will take “reasonable steps” to ensure that children cannot access material classified as X18+ or R18+.
Rather than installing age-verification systems, social media companies may find it easier to simply remove sex worker accounts, the Scarlet Alliance’s Gala Vanting said.
“The easiest way for a platform to comply with any regulations around adult content is simply to remove it,” she said.
“And we’ve seen that happen already with all three of the big social media platforms.”
Dr Stardust agreed, saying the experience of FOSTA showed that websites are quick to deplatform sex workers when having to comply with regulations around “safe content”.
“Unfortunately, this bill is part of a widespread trend towards digital gentrification,” she said.
“Governments and private platforms alike have simply put sex in the ‘too hard basket’ and taken the path of sanitising online space.
“If the bill seeks to ‘promote and improve online safety’, we must keep asking, ‘whose safety’?”
Rate of account deletion has increased
Both Twitter and Facebook say they do not have a policy of widespread deplatforming of sex workers, though Facebook (which owns Instagram) rules out content that “facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults”.
As others have pointed out, that rules out a good amount of what people post on Instagram.
These kind of community standards are vague and applied unevenly, Dr Stardust said.
Facebook and Instagram, for example, have rules against users posting sexually explicit or implicit content (including emojis that, it says, suggest “wetness or erection”).
“We routinely disable accounts that break our rules,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.
“We try to draw the line in a place that allows people to express themselves while keeping our youngest users safe.”
Twitter has a more liberal attitude, allowing “adult content” that is marked “sensitive”.
Though it says it has not changed its policy on sex worker content recently, data from Amberly Rothfield, an adult-industry consultant, shows that at the start of this year, Twitter began deleting sex worker accounts at a much higher rate than previously.
From a random sample of 5,000 sex worker accounts, the rate jumped from a handful of deletions a day to many times that number.
“We went from seeing somewhere close to maybe about three to four banned a day to upwards of 36 on a higher-end day,” she said.
“It’s still at 10-plus a day.”
In January alone, 704 of the 5,000 accounts she monitors were deleted.
This data isn’t conclusive: Twitter may have been doing some New Year’s housekeeping and deleting unused accounts, including accounts not used for sex work.
But the experiences of active Twitter users like Avery suggests that’s not the full story.
Avery said Twitter deleted her main professional account of 12,000 followers in February 2020 for using a graphic banner image, even though her banner image had no nudity.
She lost her second account of 5,700 followers last month for having started a new account under the same name. Twitter calls this “evading permanent suspension”.
Despite repeatedly begging Twitter for her account back, she’s had to start back with a new name and zero followers.
“I need access to social media to make any sort of decent profit,” she said.
“Any censorship that covers sex workers in any fashion scares the s**t out of me.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while announcing new social media rules revealed that WhatsApp is the most used app in India. He shared the entire stats about the usage of social media apps in India and WhatsApp topped the charts with YouTube in the second spot, followed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
During a press conference, Prasad revealed that WhatsApp has over 53 crores users, followed by YouTube which has over 44.8 crores users in India. Facebook has around 41 crores, Instagram has 21 crores while Twitter has the lost number of users—1.5 crores. This could also be due to the recent shift of Indian users from Twitter to the Koo app, which is the Indian alternative of Twitter.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) announced a new set of rules for the OTT platforms, social media platforms, and digital media. Talking about the new rules, MeITY minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said during a press conference, “We have not framed any new law. We have framed these rules under the existing IT Act. We are trusting the platforms to follow these regulations. The focus of this guideline is on self-regulation.”
Prasad said that the government wants social media platforms to introduce a mechanism for better verification of users.”Social media platforms upon being asked either by a court order or a govt authority will be required to disclose the first originator of mischievous tweet or message as the case may be,” Prasad said.
“All social media platforms are welcome in India but there shouldn’t be double standards. If an attack takes place on Capitol Hill, then social media supports police action, but if there’s an aggressive attack on Red Fort, then you’ve double standards. This is plainly not acceptable,” he added.
The government wants the social media companies including Facebook, Twitter and others to have Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and Resident Grievance Officer. All these officers should be residents of India. The Chief compliance officer will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the acts and rules, the Nodal person will be responsible for coordinating with law enforcement authorities and the grievance officer will perform the functions under Grievance Redressal Mechanism.
Government has also asked social media companies to build a strong user verification process.” Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided with an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with a demonstrable and visible mark of verification,” said Prasad during the conference.
Facebook has launched its new ‘Shop’ bookmark feature in the UK and Canada, allowing retailers to sell on its platform and to integrate selling from Instagram too.
The feature is aimed at business of any size – right down to one-person operations – and will allow retailers to create a single online selling presence on the platform and to sell from user’s feeds. It also will be closely allied to the company’s other social media selling tools on Instagram, which it launched last year.
In addition, Facebook is also rolling out a tool to connect loyalty programs and will be adding shoppable product tags to videos shown in its site.
“Merchants already sell on Facebook and Instagram, but now, Facebook Shop gives every business, whether that’s a major global brand or someone selling handmade jewellery out of their living room, the ability to set up a virtual storefront for free,” the company said.
With 85% of consumers globally now shopping online to some degree, Facebook is keen to tap into that as it shifts from being a communications tool to a much more commercially-focused sales platform.
This tool is the latest in a range of offerings that would shift Facebook into the realms of being a marketplace and could see it taking on Amazon and eBay.
Chloe Cox, Global Social Media Consultant at Wunderman Thompson Commerce comments: “With 65% of consumers expecting to use digital shopping channels even more in the future, Facebook’s new shopping tool announcement further demonstrates the importance of brands and retailers thinking about how to utilise their social channels and capture the attention of the shoppers. Coupled with virtual storefronts, which many brands and retailers have been experimenting with since the launch of Facebook Shops last year, this new tool aids and simplifies the customer experience.”
She continues: “For customers, bookmarking their favourite items will feel like they are on the site itself – almost serving as a ‘wish list’ – allowing customers to save their favourite items as they browse, removing any unnecessary friction and providing a smooth path to sell, save and buy.”
Cox concludes: “Whatever happens in the future, social media platforms have performed a key role throughout the pandemic, with shoppers spending more time on social media channels. This is unlikely to dwindle; Facebook’s play here is a boon to the burgeoning era of social sellers who are looking at taking advantage of audiences of more than 3 million daily active users on Facebook in the UK to grow their business. Undoubtedly, social channels will become even stronger when it comes to commerce, not just for inspiration and search, but for transaction too – digital commerce leaders even cite its importance, with 70% saying they already had a social commerce strategy in place. This new development makes total sense, and further proves how the social channels are competing with the ‘traditional commerce giants’ to seize more of the eCommerce market.”
While he commonly uses his social media feed to entertain his legion of fans, Virender Sehwag’s latest post is slightly more educational in its content.
Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag is as well known for his shots on the field as he is for his quips on air or on social media Following his retirement, the humourous celebrity has earned himself a massive fan following on social media for his comical videos and tweets. With over 36,000 subscribers on YouTube, 5 million on Instagram and a whopping 20.3 million followers on Twitter, Sehwag is one of the most relevant and popular cricketers of the older generation.
Virender Sehwag takes to social media to post warning
While he commonly uses his feed to entertain, Viru’s latest post is slightly more educational in its content. The post is a Tiktok video made by user @Murtazaahmed41 and talks about the dangers of talking on a mobile phone while it is plugged in to a charger. The video shows a man using some sort of implement to show viewers how current travels through the charger into the body if the device is plugged in while in use. Sehwag captioned the video “Don’t talk on the phone while Charging. Khatarnaak hai… #phonecharger”. However, it is worth noting that none of the information in the video has been backed up scientifically.
Meanwhile, the India vs England 3rd Test has gotten under in Motera, Gujarat. The much awaited Day-Night, Pink ball test has started off almost perfectly for the hosts who are at 86-6 on Day 1. A win in this Test will give India a 2-1 lead in the series and barring a defeat in the last Test, will mean that they will qualify for the World Test Championship finals alongside New Zealand this summer.
According to celebritynetworth.com, Virender Sehwag’s net worth is estimated to be around $40 million (approx ₹289 crore). This includes Sehwag’s salaries from his long career with the Indian cricket team as well as his stints at the IPL. At his peak, Sehwag reportedly earned ₹1 crore annually from the BCCI and ₹82 lakhs from the Delhi Daredevils side at the IPL 2011, 2012 and 2013. Since his retirement, Sehwag has donned the hat of a commentator, mentor, coach etc. The former batsman has his own coaching academy in Haryana as the Virender Sehwag school is known as the Sehwag International School.
As one of the most likerable cricketers in the country, Sehwag has won endorsement deals with a number of brands such as Adidas, Boost, Samsung Mobiles, Reebok, Hero Honda, Karbonn Mobiles and Fila. With his famous wit and charm Sehwag has also made a place for himself in the commentary teams for the IPL and even some international matches. He has also been a mentor to the Punjab Kings from 2014-18. Apart from all this, Sehwag runs hugely popular social media channels which, according to Kreedon, make him about $3 million annually.