The Crusade Against Pornhub Is Going to Get Someone Killed

"WANTED," the image posted to Gab, featuring a man's headshot and full name, said. "For crimes against women and children. Help us bring pornstars to justice. Save your children from the LGBT ideology. Save your daughter from becoming a whore. Save the white race!" Another image in the same post shows a man in military fatigues and a black ski mask holding a gun.There are other similarities between the extremist Christian group's post on Gab and Exodus Cry's messaging. In October 1, 2020, Exodus Cry posted a blog about the identity of the same Pornhub executive named in the Gab post, inviting readers to "join the fight to expose Mindgeek and bring their 'real' executives to justice for profiting off of sex crimes." The post on Gab said that "all porn producers, watchers and stars must face justice for their crimes." The explicit goal of Exodus Cry’s Traffickinghub campaign is to end Pornhub entirely: “We're calling for Pornhub to be shut down and its executives held accountable for these crimes," the campaign states. "Heil Exodus Cry!" Another post on Gab by the same neo-Nazi group said, and included an image of a man in a bullet-proof vest, a shotgun, and the words "SHUT IT DOWN!" imposed over a photograph of Mindgeek's Montreal office.The Gab post described Pornhub as a "cartel," and said that if Canada, where Pornhub's parent company Mindgeek is headquartered, fails to sentence Pornhub employees to the death penalty, members of the Christian group will execute them themselves. It also used the hashtag #Traffickinghub, the eponymous name of the mainstream campaign to shut down Pornhub, founded by Laila Mickelwait and "powered by" Exodus Cry , a faith-based anti-trafficking organization with ties to a homophobic megachurch that wants to end the porn industry .
Posts by extremists viewed by Motherboard use these anti-trafficking organizations' branding and language. More importantly, they agree with the substance of the ideologies that these anti-trafficking organizations peddle—that all sex work is trafficking, that the porn industry needs to be eradicated, that massage parlors are dens of criminal activity. They believe that Pornhub is as evil and dangerous as Traffickinghub says, and if the government is not going to stop it like Traffickinghub wants it to, they threaten to stop it themselves by violent means. Traffickinghub and Exodus Cry have never explicitly called for violence against Pornhub, and both groups clearly condemned these posts and others that call for violence while invoking their names after Motherboard reached out for comment.Other Gab posts, seen by Motherboard, show people posing in skull masks, holding rifles, and wearing Traffickinghub t-shirts, which Exodus Cry sells for $25. Some posts within these extremist groups are recruitment calls for new members to patrol borders or engage in "direct activism." Several include swastikas and other hate symbols. One, with images of women holding baseball bats and wearing Traffickinghub t-shirts, says that "volunteers in LA are carrying out patrols, looking for whores, pimps and TIM/TIF ["trans identified male/trans identified female," which are transphobic slurs ] creeps. Women must protect themselves at all cost, the Biden government wont and its only going to get worse! Defend women and children, abolish sex work and trans rights." While Exodus Cry has largely tried to get Pornhub shut down using political and social media pressure, its rhetoric is used by people who want to take matters into their own hands. Sex workers and organizations targeted by those people believe that the rhetoric is going to lead to real world violence, and say that several high-profile mass killings can be traced back to anti-sex worker rhetoric more broadly. "Most recently, these groups have used extremist language and tapped into QAnon sentiment toward child trafficking, so it makes sense that their rhetoric has attracted and mobilized some of the darkest corners of the internet," the Pornhub spokesperson said. "It is disturbing and dangerous, but not the least bit surprising, to see extremists using Nazi paraphernalia, death threats and photos of weapons alongside Exodus Cry's Traffickinghub logo." "Violent imagery from their adherents is the direct result of their violent rhetoric against sex workers," she said. "NCOSE and Traffickinghub foment their followers into a deadly frenzy, that is their goal, and they are to blame for the fear sex workers live with, and the deaths that follow."Mary Moody, a founding board member at the Adult Industry Laborers & Artists Association, told me that she believes organizations like Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), formerly known as Morality in Media, try to eradicate the adult industry by making sex workers fear for their lives. A spokesperson for Pornhub told me that the company's security team is constantly monitoring online and in-person activity to keep employees safe. "Rampant anti-porn rhetoric has drastically increased instances of death threats and doxing against our employees," a Pornhub spokesperson told Motherboard. "Unfortunately, it has also been detrimental to the hundreds of thousands of models who seek to use our platform to earn a living."When I asked Mickelwait to comment on the use of Traffickinghub logos and language by neo-Nazis, she directed me to two of her tweets: one from October 2020 , which screenshot different posts from another white supremacist group.

All the anti-sex trafficking groups Motherboard contacted for this story condemned the content of the extremist Gab posts, and all forms of violence, but also rejected the notion that their negative portrayal of sex work and pornography could lead to real world violence. In fact, Mickelwait suggested , without any evidence, that the Gab posts could have been created by Pornhub as a way to undermine her campaign to shut the site down.

"Most of this propaganda is pretty ordinary visually in terms of online white supremacists, except that the individuals in the propaganda photos are women, and the text is explicitly anti-porn.”

Sex trafficking is a real and tragic issue, but anti-trafficking groups frequently equate the entire adult industry, including pornography, with exploitation and paint sex workers as victims in need of rescue. “Anti-sex trafficking” is a topic that's easy to gain political backing, fundraising, and popular support for . By couching the conversation as being against “sexual slavery,” it’s easy to shut down the more nuanced and difficult conversations about the ways that politicians, businesses, antiquated laws, poorly written sex trafficking legislation, and an anti-sex-work culture more broadly have hurt and killed people who are working in the consensual porn and sex work industries. No reasonable human is pro-trafficking, but anti-trafficking groups use the issue to advance legislation and policies, and real-world stigma against sex workers, to further their cause. Frequently, these “anti-sex trafficking” groups want to end the entire adult industry altogether.

There are hundreds of anti-trafficking organizations operating in the U.S. alone. The overwhelming majority of these push for a model of sex work called the Nordic or end-demand model, which criminalizes sex buyers. Sex worker advocacy groups, as well as global human rights organizations including Amnesty International , the ACLU , and Human Rights Watch , say—and have conducted studies that show—that this model would only expose workers to more risk. Sex work wouldn't simply go away, but it would becomes less visible, more dangerous, and would directly lead to more exploitation. Instead of legalization or "partial" decriminalization, these organizations say, sex workers need full decriminalization. "Visually, [these] groups use neo-Nazi imagery, including swastikas, black sun (sonnenrad) symbols, and skull masks which neo-Nazi accelerationist groups have adopted," Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher and content review specialist at the Counter Extremism Project, said. "Most of this propaganda is pretty ordinary visually in terms of online white supremacists, except that the individuals in the propaganda photos are women, and the text is explicitly anti-porn. Masked individuals posing with firearms also fits the pattern of propaganda released by neo-Nazi groups that have endorsed committing acts of violence."

In response to these accusations, a Pornhub spokesperson said: "Insinuating that Pornhub puts out death threats against its own employees is exactly the kind of vile conspiracy theory we have come to expect from these extremist organizations, and all it does is empower their followers to keep making threats."

In the other tweet on March 17, 2021, she quote-tweeted the images from Gab and wrote, "As the founder of Traffickinghub I aggressively condemn the racist hateful message here. It has no place in this movement. Knowing the dirty tactics of Mindgeek & the extreme racism they promote on Pornhub I would not be surprised if Mindgeek created these accounts to attack."

"For the record, as the founder of the Traffickinghub movement I reject everything about the account creating these horrific hate filled posts misusing the TH hashtag," she wrote. "I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it is actually Pornhub who is behind this to promote a false narrative."

There's a long history of crossover between white supremacy and anti-pornography beliefs, dating back at least as far as the 1970s . "Many individuals in white supremacist communities have strong anti-porn sentiment," Fisher-Birch said. "There are numerous reasons for this, principally the beliefs that Jews control the porn industry, that it abuses and corrupts white women, normalizes interracial relationships, and disincentives procreation among whites. In many cases, porn is viewed as part of a Jewish-controlled anti-white conspiracy theory." Immediately after the Atlanta shooting, on 4chan's /pol/ section—an image board notorious for hate speech— someone posted , “So it wasn’t ‘white supremacist neo-nazi Trump supporters’ who were responsible for the spa shootings, but porn and sex peddlers who have poisoned our society." That sentiment isn't unique to current events; something similarly disparaging or threatening of the porn industry can be found on 4chan on any given day.

Exodus Cry wrote on Facebook that it is "clear" that victims of the shooting were trafficked, based on an Instagram post from a random person citing third-hand, unconfirmed information. "It's doubly tragic that many of these victims probably never had a chance to escape a life of exploitation or get justice before their lives were taken," they wrote in the Facebook post. "Please continue to keep the victims' families in your prayers, and join us in speaking out against trafficking in massage parlors across the US." The post makes no mention of their killer, nor does it condemn his actions.

The ideologies of anti-porn extremists aren't unique to serial killers; they're persistent online, with whole forums dedicated to encouraging this hate. In 2018 , people from anti-masturbation groups tweeted threats at porn site xHamster, saying things like "death to pornographers" and "support capital punishment for pornographers," combined with anti-semitic imagery. The Proud Boys, which is designated a white supremacist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, uses anti-masturbation as a form of control: “No heterosexual brother of the Fraternity shall masturbate more than one time in any calendar month,” according to their rules . “All members shall abstain from pornography.” Adherents to other communities that are focused on abstinence from porn and masturbation hold up an impossible standard of white masculinity, and see porn performers as less than "real women." In incel communities, hatred for adult performers, including cam models and male talent, is rampant. Hate and blame for pornography coupled with white supremacy is behind many more mass-murder attacks in recent years: Elliot Rodger, a self-proclaimed incel, killed six people in 2014 and blamed viewing porn at an early age: “The sight was shocking, traumatizing, and arousing. All of these feelings mixed together took a great toll on me,” he wrote in his manifesto. “I walked home and cried by myself for a bit. I felt too guilty about what I saw to talk to my parents about it.” Alek Minassian, who killed 10 people in 2018 and was obsessed with Rodger and the incel community, held up Rodger as a hero and brought up his porn-viewing habit to psychiatrists post-arrest. Scott Paul Beierle, who opened fire on a yoga studio in 2018, hated women and blamed yoga-themed porn for his actions. "I saw that interracial couple he had, photographed there, having sex. It just made me sick. I think whites marry with whites, blacks with blacks, Indians with Indians. Orientals with orientals. I threw the magazine down and thought, I'm gonna kill that guy."White supremacist hate combined with misogynistic views on porn is a recurring theme for those that act out violence. In 1978 , white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin shot and permanently paralyzed Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, and killed 20 people—specifically targeting Blacks and Jews, and civil rights leaders—from 1977 to 1980. He claimed Hitler's "Mein Kampf'' inspired him. In prison, Franklin said of his reasons for shooting Flynt:
And on March 25 , the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services brought Mickelwait in to speak as an expert witness for a virtual panel about human trafficking. In her written testimony , she called Mindgeek, Pornhub's parent company, a "mega-sex trafficker” that's "infested with highly monetized commercial crime scene footage of child sexual abuse, rape, assault, and other forms of non-consensual pornographic content."He added that aligning with non-extremist organizations is a tactic extremists use to get their messages to the mainstream. In the last month, anti-trafficking groups that want to exclude sex workers from conversations about their own wellbeing have found soapboxes everywhere from the New York Times to the U.S. House of Representatives. After the Atlanta shooting, the Times published an article that suggests the massage parlors that were the targets of the shootings could have been trafficking operations because of their industry, with no proof that they were. The article uncritically cited anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project, as well as faith-based anti-trafficking organization Street Grace, as unbiased sources of information on the sex trade. Both of these groups advocate for the end-demand model.

"In some white supremacist communities, viewing pornography is portrayed as a lack of self-discipline that shows that an individual can’t be trusted or is corrupted by modern consumerist culture. In many religious white supremacist communities, porn is viewed as sinful," said Fisher-Birch. "It’s crucial to note that white supremacist ideologies view women as subservient to men. Control of women’s bodies and sexuality and anti-feminism play a significant role. Other white supremacist extremist communities, including some that endorse accelerationism, have supported rape or committing acts of sexual violence against women, including in a coordinated manner."

The someone else, in his case, was women working in massage parlors—and in the language of evangelical Christianity, which the shooter was raised in, he's not the one that needs absolution, Stabile said. It's his victims.Advocates for sex worker rights blame the escalating violence against them on this kind of platforming and legitimizing of biased anti-trafficking organizations. Mike Stabile, communications director for the adult industry organization Free Speech Coalition, said that he sees a lot in common between these types of hate groups and anti-trafficking organizations' missions to eradicate porn. "I've spent a lot of time in anti-masturbation spaces and conspiracy spaces, and the general narrative is not all that different when it comes to porn," he told me. "That it's making you weaker, it's about gaining control of you. All of these things get used by someone like the [Atlanta] shooter, who wants to talk about how someone else is responsible for this."

Like all large internet platforms, Pornhub is rife with problems, and we've seen harassment and life-altering non-consensual content proliferate on its site. But the site now has some of the best identity verification practices in the industry, and more stringent guidelines for uploads than even Facebook, where child sexual abuse material spreads in the millions of uploads per year .

With Project Rescue LA, she would go with small groups that would set out on surveillance missions where they "were instructed to surround, surveil, and profile a massage shop, which was identified only by a small sign in neon purple lights that read 'MASSAGE' in the window. Easy to miss amid high-end restaurants, grocery stores, and numerous other stores, the organizers were eager to point out how deceptively human trafficking can 'lurk where we least expect it,'" Shih wrote. In 2016, sociologist Elena Shih, who studies human trafficking and sex work and who is now an outreach organizer with Red Canary Song , studied the phenomenon of "backyard abolitionist" culture, by embedding with two evangelical Christian anti-trafficking NGOs, Project Rescue LA and Thai Red Light Rescue LA.

Anti-sex trafficking organizations don't just produce research on sex work and organize for legislation that actively puts sex workers in danger, they also promote and facilitate a dangerous type of anti-sex work vigilantism.

"They are the reason why terrorist attacks like those in Atlanta happen," Moody said. "People forget that these organizations are following the anti-abortion strategy where adherents bombed hospitals and murdered doctors."

"In two years of outreach with both organizations, never did I encounter a situation of human trafficking with outreach teams," Shih wrote in the study. "However, for outreach participants, failing to see what they set out to identify week after week simply served as confirmation that they needed to take to the streets more frequently and look deeper beneath the surface to uncover the realities that had been suggested through political and moral scripts about human trafficking." Recalling an outreach mission with Thai Red Light Rescue, Shih describes the group watching and pondering over a woman in Koreatown "dressed in a tight fitting mini-skirt, high heels, and an equally snug-fitting tank top" and standing alone. The group considered the possibility that she might be trafficked. They spent so much time watching her and mulling whether she was a victim, and how to approach her, that eventually a car of college-aged people pulled up and she hopped in, and they drove off. The group of activists became convinced that they'd just witnessed street prostitution, and brushed off Shih's suspicion that the woman was simply a college student waiting on her ride for a night out with friends. Project Rescue LA volunteers were instructed to surreptitiously "record the number of people who entered the establishment, their race/ethnicity, gender, age, and how long each individual stayed in the building," as well as watch out for signs of trafficking provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services . Those signs included fear, not speaking English, being a recent immigrant, and lack of identifying paperwork like passports or ID. Organizers were proud of their outreach efforts, and they hoped to be useful to the Los Angeles Police Department.

This vigilante-style preoccupation with massage parlors and the sex trade is a common thread across many anti-trafficking organizations. Many have a "take action" section of their websites, that usually involves guidance for normal, untrained people on how to spot trafficking in your community, report it, or lobby legislators on their key talking points—which almost always includes the end-demand model of sex work that criminalizes clients and doesn't make sex workers safer.

The organization used its observations to make great assumptive leaps about what happened inside of the parlors: "Assuming there are at least three people working at each establishment at any given point in time, that is about 500 victimized individuals of the IMI [illicit massage industry] on any given day across Georgia," the report said.

"At each establishment, a camera was set up for 24 hours on public property on a random day of the week. A total of 456 hours of film was analyzed to count the number of customers that received services at each establishment, including the time they entered and the time they departed. Those who attempted to enter but did not receive services were not counted in the customer count; only those who entered and exited within a time period where it could be reasonably deduced that they received services were counted in the demand totals. The dependent variable is the total customers receiving services within two hour time intervals throughout a 24-hour period."

Last year, faith-based anti-trafficking nonprofit Street Grace scraped data from a massage parlor clientele online message board, and put up cameras around massage parlors in the Atlanta area to monitor the businesses and their customers. Its 2020 report , the result of this surveillance, shows an obsessive level of detail that sounds a lot like the groups Shih embedded with for her study:The same individual mandate to surveil, harass, and lobby against sex workers is also organized and legitimized by dozens of non-profits and NGOs across the country. "Nearly all of these organizations have called for the increased surveillance and policing of massage businesses, and the result has been hundreds of raids across the country which have terrorized and criminalized massage workers," Shih wrote in a New York Times op-ed on the Atlanta shootings. "These systemic forms of violence cannot be divorced from the brutal killings of massage parlor workers in the Atlanta area on March 16. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a conservative anti-porn and anti-sex work organization formerly known as Morality in Media, " expressed sympathy " for the victims' families and repeated the line from Atlanta police that the shooter had a “ sexual addiction ” and that the women he killed were a “temptation he wanted to eliminate.” The organization used this as a chance to boost its agenda to criminalize buying sex—“The tragic reality is that there is substantial demand for buying sex in America," it wrote. It cites "reams of evidence" that sex work is dangerous, but fail to mention the many, many studies from major organizations, academic researchers and sex workers themselves that show decriminalization of sex work is the most effective way to protect the rights and lives of those in the industry. When asked to comment on white supremacist rhetoric that adopts language from anti-trafficking organizations, a spokesperson for CATW said, "Our position is clear: we call for laws that decriminalize people engaged in prostitution–the most marginalized individuals in society and who are overwhelmingly women and transwomen of color–and mandate comprehensive services they need. We also call for accountability of perpetrators, including sex buyers (who are almost always men, and overwhelmingly white men) and whose sense of entitlement and dollars spent on the purchase of sexual acts from vulnerable people fuel the global multi-billion-dollar sex trade."

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), wrote that it was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, and then immediately shifted to promoting the end-demand model. "CATW cannot consider this tragedy an isolated attack, but sees it as possibly linked to the global sex trade, whose underpinning relies on systemic racism and misogyny and which is fueled by sex buyers," the organization wrote. Like the others mentioned, CATW believes that all sex work is trafficking, and lobbies against decriminalization of sex work—again, something that sex workers, activists, and global human rights organizations say would improve, and save, lives.

"These organizations are simply 501c3-QAnon, hateful propaganda think tanks that put sex worker lives in danger," Moody said. "For decades religious anti-porn groups have been manufacturing panic over every facet of the industry. Before that they were creating panic over the drug trade. Make no mistake, these groups are celebrating the attacks in Atlanta, because they incited them." In the wake of the Atlanta shooting earlier this month, these sex-worker exclusionary anti-trafficking organizations did what they usually do: jump on a tragic news event to gain attention for themselves.
Anti-trafficking organizations that ignore sex workers' need for decriminalization, while wielding police intervention and abuse survivors' stories as political tools , often use massage parlors as one of their examples of exploitative sex work. They use scare tactics like " Is There Massage Parlor Trafficking in my Community? " and blunt-force phrases like Traffickinghub's rallying cry to "Shut it down."Exodus Cry, the conservative anti-sex work group behind the campaign to "shut down" Pornhub , also has many pages about massage parlors on its websites, including listing massage parlors as part of its "outreach." During the Super Bowl 2019, Exodus Cry sent an "outreach team" to Atlanta to confront "sexually exploited women and girls across Atlanta daily on the streets, in strip clubs, and online." A 2017 report from Exodus Cry specifically mentions Asian massage parlors. "Exodus Cry condemns racism, acts of violence, and violent rhetoric in all its forms," Benjamin Nolot, CEO and founder of Exodus Cry, told me in an email. "Regarding the recent Atlanta massage parlor shootings, evidence indicates trafficking was happening at one or more of these massage parlors in the past. Whether any of the shooting victims were actively being trafficked is currently unknown, but we believe this situation warrants an investigation." "The sex industry is a bastion of unconfronted racism in America," a spokesperson for NCOSE told me. "The illicit massage businesses across America are evidence of the institutionalized, fetishized racism of Asian women; all men who patronize them perpetuate racism against Asian women. Similarly, mainstream pornography is rife with racist hatred; all consumers of pornography fuel the demand for radicalized sexual violence.”The story the organization is telling its donors is the opposite. After the shooting, Catherine Chen, CEO of Polaris, wrote in an email to Polaris' supporters that working in massage parlors "was no one’s version of the American dream. We all mourn the victims of the Atlanta shootings together, and pledge to continue working towards a world where sexual violence, including sex trafficking, is no longer normal or normalized.” When The New Republic asked Chen about the organization's stance on massage parlors, Chen wrote in a statement, “We believe that survivor-centered, trauma informed law enforcement are a vital part of the comprehensive response to trafficking," and, “We believe that the massage businesses that are trafficking people should be shut down.” When I reached out to Polaris last month to ask why the page was suddenly removed, a spokesperson told me that it was taken down “in an abundance of caution on the off chance some white supremacist extremist might find a way to twist it into an excuse for violence,” and that this reflects a “more holistic approach” to the organization’s sex trafficking reduction strategy, “that does not include a focus on the massage industry in particular (although it may wind up as part of the strategy in localities where it is particularly prevalent)." The Polaris Project, one of the biggest anti-trafficking, anti-sex work organizations, did something slightly different. Days after the shooting, it took down the page that hosted a major report on massage parlor trafficking, something that had been quoted a day prior in the New York Times to support an argument that the victims could have been running trafficking rings. That page featured a series of images of the storefronts of massage parlors, overlaid with titles like "Massage parlor trafficking networks and organized crime," "Your role in ending massage parlor trafficking," and "Is There Massage Parlor Trafficking in my Community?" "When you call up these narratives the savior becomes the most important part of the story," sex worker rights advocate Kate D'Adamo told me. "It's galvanized people to see themselves within this legacy of white knight abolition."

Taking Threats ‘Seriously but Realistically’

Increased policing, which these organizations call for, directly harms migrant communities; police have been inflicting violence on massage parlor owners and employees for a long time before the Atlanta shooter targeted them. Organizations like Polaris call for "trauma-informed law enforcement," while ignoring the evidence that more policing increases extortion at the hands of police.

"Instead of protection, law enforcement is actually the major source of harm against sex workers," Elene Lam, co-founder of Butterfly, a support network for Asian and migrant sex workers based in Toronto, told VICE. "We need to address the real reasons that people who work at massage parlors or in the sex industry, particularly Asians, are vulnerable to violence and become the target of the violence.”
Images on extremist forums that spew white supremacist hate against trans people, marginalized racial groups, and the porn industry manage to distill into memes and hashtags the worst impulses of a culture that doesn't respect sex workers. Fisher-Birch said that determining the credibility of a threat in the form of a Photoshopped image threatening the Mindgeek offices is complicated.
“If someone saying 'porn is the worst scourge of the Earth, and we need to eliminate the sex industry'—that's never going to get flagged as hate speech”

"It’s important to take threats seriously but realistically," Fisher-Birch said. "I think it’s very concerning that these individuals make violent threats online against trans people, sex workers, and activists. I am more worried that they would commit an act of violence or a crime of opportunity in their own geographic area."

Most social media platforms are far from enacting perfect policies against hate speech, including white supremacy. Twitter is notorious for its Nazi problem, and Facebook can't seem to stop disinformation, QAnon, Neo-Confederate and anti-Semitic groups from proliferating. Hate speech itself isn't a crime, but there have been recent attempts at legislating hate speech online, including the “Social Media Hate Speech Accountability Act," and a proposal that would require that platforms make it easier for users to report hate speech. Most of these mainstream platforms already discriminate against sexual speech; none of the focus on hate speech has included protections for sex workers. "Of the bills that I've seen that are about targeting disinformation and hate speech, there's nothing that makes me feel safe about any of those bills whatsoever," D'Adamo said. "At least partially because—if someone saying 'porn is the worst scourge of the Earth, and we need to eliminate the sex industry'—that's never going to get flagged as hate speech."Fascination with saving women from sexual sin in the United States didn't come out of nowhere. We have a long history of tying porn, promiscuity, and purity together to point blame at sex for somehow destroying the country. One could trace it back to Puritanism and book-banning more than 200 years ago, but even in recent memory, the idea that erotic speech threatened the health of society persisted. In the Regan era, it was the idea that porn would make viewers violent toward women, or dismantle the family unit, and therefore needed to be regulated: The 1986 Meese Report, from then-Attorney General Edwin Meese, made claims that porn had harmful effects on people and society, and that the industry was a hotbed for organized crime. Free speech advocates called the report biased and flawed, but conservatives and the religious right latched onto it immediately. The report endorsed individual action from people who opposed porn's "anti-social" effects on society, including protesting at bookstores that sold pornographic material, and making formal complaints to government authorities about materials citizens found “harmful, immoral or objectionable.” “Although there are many members of this society who can and have made affirmative cases for uncommitted sexuality, none of us believes it to be a good thing,” the report said. And it was up to the individual to pressure the State to make laws that would ban porn, or take matters into their own hands.

"What is surprising is how well organizations [like NCOSE and Exodus Cry] have rebranded themselves, scrubbed the internet of their past hateful rhetoric, and hidden their true agendas to be more publicly acceptable in order to convince legitimate organizations and elected officials to stand beside them," a Pornhub spokesperson said. "However, this does not change the fact that these are extremists whose agenda has always been to abolish adult content and tell consenting adults what they should do."

"Dangerous organizations like theirs are the reason sex workers protect their identities with pseudonyms, why online sex workers work hard to protect their location and names, why I caution people to only use a P.O. box, and do not go to pick up packages by themselves and why many of my full-service friends live in fear," Moody told me.Exodus Cry's Facebook post about the Atlanta shooting piously says, "it's important to understand who these victims were," before reducing them to caricatures of the sex-trafficked Asian woman. We know who they were because their loved ones told the world: mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and friends. They worked long hours to provide for their families, who now mourn them.

As we've seen from extremist online groups, there are scores of people ready to hate them, profile them, or unfairly call them "trafficked." Unless these anti-sex trafficking nonprofits that try to make them the poster-women of their own agenda start focusing on issues like housing and food instability, fair wages, rights and resources for immigrants and rights for sex workers, they won't be the last victims of senseless vigilante violence. History will just continue to repeat.

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