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The bill has good intentions — it aims to toughen sex trafficking laws, making it illegal to knowingly assist, facilitate, or support sex trafficking. Users were shocked to log on to Backpage and find this message.

The bills make social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Craigslist liable for the actions of their users and in turn dozens of websites have been forced to shut down or modify their services in an attempt to self-censor.

To the millions of spouses, partners and couples who met through Craigslist, we wish you every happiness! If you wanted sex — and you wanted to pay for it — Cracker and Backpage were your first port of call. Thousands of Australian sex workers have felt the pinch because they used those websites to advertise their services, screen clients and communicate with others in the industry.

Eight missing workers in 26 hours. Sex workers are losing income and some have lost their lives already. Raven said before the sites shut down, she was seeing 10 clients every day on average. Last week, she said she saw approximately four clients a day. My phone has been really quiet this week. Time for a call to action? Sex workers lives are at stake, this needs to be international news. Do whatever it takes. International SWs head to your US embassy.

Jessi was talking to me from her hospital bed where she was preparing for her second round of back surgery. She had just returned to work after her first spinal surgery when her main source of income, Backpage, went down for good. She said it accounted for 95 per cent of her client base. The impact is already being felt. In March, Reddit told users it was banning the solicitation or facilitation of "paid services involving physical sexual contact" and reportedly got rid of a number of subreddits where sex work was discussed.

Australian sex workers are becoming even more cyber-savvy in response, building their own networks and encrypting emails. The sex work community uses American internet platforms to advertise, talk to clients and share safety information. Estelle Lucas, an Australian sex worker and activist, said she uses sites like Twitter, Instagram and Gmail. These tools allow her to screen customers, as well as choose when to work and in what circumstances.

Lola Hunt, a sex worker and technologist based in Melbourne, communicates on "every social platform from Twitter to Whatsapp". They are absolutely essential," she wrote in an email. Still, the impact of the bill in Australia is still largely unknown — particularly, a lack of clarity about how it will be enforced. File-sharing site Google Drive and video chat service Skype already ban sexually explicit or nude content, and there are concerns such rules could expand or become more strongly policed if the bill becomes law.

John Scott, a law professor at the Queensland University of Technology, said there are unlikely to be immediate, significant impacts within Australia, but he's concerned the US law could hurt the industry's ability to self-regulate. Jules Kim, CEO of the Scarlet Alliance, which represents Australian sex workers, said these digital platforms are a practical tool of negotiation, as well as a tool for safety.

For those workers that are familiar with the internet, work-arounds will be inconvenient but not impossible. However, Ms Lucas said she was concerned for more vulnerable sex workers who might have less time and resources to invest in their online safety.

It's not simply that client communication may be inaccessible; there are also online forums, group messages and email lists where health and safety information about bad clients is shared. Ultimately, Ms Lucas warned the laws might not only impact sites that are explicitly focused on sex work. To prepare for the bill's potential impact, advocacy groups like SWOP NSW and the Scarlet Alliance have held information sessions, teaching locals about encryption and even cryptocurrency.

On classifieds sites like Backpage, Mr Cox pointed out, you couldn't use most major credit cards to buy advertising, but new technologies like bitcoin were a solution. An online community of sex workers is also helping to ensure everyone's technology knowledge is up-to-date. Sex workers are also turning to encrypted email services like ProtonMail, but another option is to control the platform outright. Ms Hunt is part of a group of developers called Assembly Four.

They have begun work on a new social platform called Switter, which is purpose-built for sex workers. When approached for comment, Google pointed to a statement from its trade organisation, the Internet Association, which said it was committed to ending trafficking online. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.

ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content. Read about our editorial guiding principles and the enforceable standard our journalists follow. Space Nature Humans Technology Programs. Estelle Lucas uses social media to work and build community. What is thalidomide and why is it dangerous? Remember this 'alien probe'? Turns out it's a really weird comet 'You could be in Gondwana during the Cretaceous' 'Three-person IVF' one step closer in fight against rare disease Japanese spacecraft chases down an asteroid.

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