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Twitter’s Latest Policy Change Just Landed a Major Blow to Sex Workers

Sex workers may lose one of their most important tools.

Elon Musk thinking

It’s been an eventful week for Twitter. Several high-profile journalists were unexpectedly banned on the platform, and Mastodon users discovered links to the alternative social media platform were mysteriously prohibited from being shared on Twitter. Now, Twitter has formalized its anti-Mastodon policy — and in the process, Elon Musk’s company has also put sex workers in a precarious situation.

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Earlier today, the official Twitter Support account announced that the social media platform will “no longer allow free promotion of certain social media platforms on Twitter.” A policy write-up reveals Twitter will now act against users that engage in the “free promotion of prohibited 3rd-party social media platforms.” This includes linking out to, and sharing a username from, a shortlist of banned websites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Mastodon.

However, and most relevant to sex workers, Twitter now prohibits free promotion to “3rd-party social media link aggregators” like Linktree. Linktree and its fellow aggregators are commonly used by sex workers as a centralized resource list, directing clients to a full catalog of accounts on adult social media platforms, such as OnlyFans, ManyVids, and Chaturbate. Whether intentionally or otherwise, Musk’s company has effectively pulled the plug on one of the most important tools sex workers can use to promote their online presence on Twitter.

While Twitter has banned promotional links to Linktree and other targeted websites, the social media platform still allows “paid advertisement/promotion for any of the prohibited social media platforms.” It remains unclear whether sex workers would be allowed to purchase a Twitter advertisement for their Linktree — although such a purchase would certainly come at an unexpected cost to many online sex workers.

It also remains remains unclear how Twitter’s new alternative social media policy could impact sex workers promoting their accounts on OnlyFans, PornHub, and other adult platforms. While these sites are not explicitly banned by Twitter’s new policy, and users are still allowed to post links or usernames for non-prohibited sites, the company states that “accounts that are used for the main purpose of promoting content on another social platform may be suspended.” Theoretically, this means sex workers looking to use Twitter to sell their services on fan sites and other adult multimedia platforms may face additional scrutiny from Twitter.

Potential moderation actions range based on frequency and context. For tweets that are first-time offenses, Twitter may require users to delete the offending posts. The site may also temporarily lock the user’s account. “Any subsequent offenses will result in permanent suspension,” Twitter warns.

Accounts that violate the policy via their account name or bio will also face a temporary account lockout. Like with tweets, breaking the rule additional times may lead to a permanent suspension.

The Mary Sue has reached out to Twitter and Elon Musk to confirm the new alternative social media policy’s potential ramifications for sex workers.

While Linktree remains a commonly used platform for adult content creators, the service was criticized by sex workers earlier this year after users were suddenly and unexpectedly banned by the platform, according to Vice. While initially banned, Linktree’s policies now allow for links out to adult websites, as long as “the content you’re linking to is legal in your region.”

(Featured image: Daniel Oberhaus/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

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Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.

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