German Authorities Target Sex Workers Posting Adult Content on Twitter

German Authorities Target Sex Workers Posting Adult Content on Twitter

BERLIN — German authorities have been stepping up their efforts to fine in-country sex workers for posting sexually explicit content on open online platforms like Twitter, forcing them to take down posts on the U.S.-based — and Free Speech-protected — sites.

According to a new report by The Daily Dot, focusing on sex workers in the German BDSM community, the crackdown against free sexual expression on the internet has been ramping up in Germany over the last few years.

Laws regulating online pornography, writes The Daily Dot’s Jessica Klein in a report published today, have been in place since 2002.

The Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media, Klein writes, “makes it illegal to distribute pornography to which minors have access.”

Government censors from a confusing patchwork of regulatory bodies in state and local governments have been using that legislation to target sex workers who post sexual content on open platforms like Twitter.

These tactics coincide with increased calls by religiously inspired German politicians and groups, as XBIZ has reported, to intervene in sexual expression online, as part of the worldwide War on Porn.

The Censor Speaks

The Daily Dot interviewed Bodil Diederichsen, who works with the Medienanstalt Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH), a media regulatory body in northern Germany.

Diederichsen was unusually candid about the official efforts to censor sex workers, and said that her unit “mainly work off tips, getting notifications from the public about possibly offending content, which also includes hate speech and other violations, before researching it themselves.”

After establishing that a certain piece of content violates regulations, Diederichsen elaborated, the MA HSH will “usually try and get in touch with the ‘content provider,’ for example, the Dominatrix who tweeted a clip. The content provider has a chance to take down the tweet before facing a penalty.”

“We are always open for conversations and finding solutions,” Diederichsen added.

German law allow explicit content to be posted to what they call a “closed user group” (i.e., behind some kind of age-verification wall). But in the case of Twitter, the process is at the discretion of these local censorship bodies, like MA HSH.

If someone — anyone — complains about explicit content posted on Twitter by someone based in Germany, Diederichsen told the Daily Dot that “the next step for MA HSH is to reach out to the ‘host provider,’ or the platform where the content appeared.”

“When MA HSH contacted Twitter about hosting sexual content that violates German law,” she continued, “the company responded by pointing out the notices Twitter puts in front of certain posts indicating “sensitive content.” Users can then simply click to see the tweet.”

“This,” Diederichsen sentenced, “is not sufficient according to our law. From my point of view, it makes the whole thing for young children even more interesting.”

Eventually, the German censors target the posters themselves, with threats of hefty fines.

Vague Guidelines

Diederichsen admitted to The Daily Dot that “the guidelines for what content creators can and cannot post on open platforms like Twitter are vague,” including subjective references to content that might “impair the development of children or adolescents,” or the appearance of “a supplemental text that makes it obscene.

“It is always an individual decision,” the censor revealed.

As The Daily Dot explained, the aftermath of the FOSTA/SESTA legislation decimated social platforms where sex workers could explicitly promote their work, leaving Twitter as the last standing bastion of sexual free speech.

“Hence German sex workers’ concern over regulations to the platform,” Klein writes. “While German officials can’t control the non-local Twitter, they are limiting its use for resident sex workers in a way that could serve as an example for other countries leaning toward increasingly conservative agendas.”

To read The Daily Dot’s article “Facing Social Media Crackdowns Amid the Pandemic, Sex Workers Worry for Their Futures,” click here.

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