Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Professor John J. Pitney, Jr.

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Desmond V. Mantle


This thesis tracks the development of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act/Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or FOSTA/SESTA, which became federal law in 2018. The law's passage followed as a natural consequence of popular concerns about human trafficking. Congress passed the legislation by large margins in both houses given bipartisan opposition to sex trafficking. This thesis identifies plausible reasons for the only two Senate votes against the bill: those of Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden. Though these senators came from opposite sides of the aisle, they shared concerns about the future of free speech online and the potential failure of FOSTA/SESTA to combat sex trafficking.

Many harms have befallen consensual sex workers as a result of FOSTA/SESTA's enactment. The closure of online platforms formerly used for sex work advertising and communication between sex workers has forced sex workers back onto the streets and into greater danger. Furthermore, there are current and potential future constitutional challenges to FOSTA/SESTA on the grounds of the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. FOSTA/SESTA has had a significant chilling effect on online free speech, leading to opposition from groups like the Wikimedia Foundation. This thesis takes account of the reasonable and justified concerns that sex trafficking is a tremendous evil when it occurs. However, after considering alternative models of legalizing or decriminalizing sex work, this thesis concludes that FOSTA/SESTA continues harmful anti-prostitution policy in the United States and should be repealed to reduce these harms and respect the rights protected by the Constitution.