Sex Workers Hope Elon Musk Will Leave Them Alone on Twitter

Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, and members of a key user demographic—sex workers—have some thoughts.
Elon Musk's Twitter profile next to a Twitter logo.
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On Monday, Elon Musk—the richest person on the planet—reached a deal to buy Twitter.com, the platform that has elevated him to main character status. 

After he closed the deal, Musk said in a statement that he wants to “make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” These vague, conflicting goals, combined with Musk’s long history of bullying and harassment on the very website he now owns, have a lot of people who use Twitter every day on edge. Some people can leave the site—and plenty are screeching that they will—without serious repercussions on their livelihoods. 

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Sex workers, however, can’t abandon Twitter so easily; the platform is the largest social media outlet that still allows pornography to appear alongside everyone else’s shitposts and hot takes. Sex workers are frequently forced to migrate from site to site as platforms create increasingly-strict terms that forbid sexual speech—whether by legislation like FOSTA/SESTA or discriminatory payment processors. For many, Twitter is their main tool for promoting content on clip and subscription sites like OnlyFans. Twitter is a relatively sex-tolerant space that’s a bridge between the mainstream internet and the online porn world. 

“Twitter has generally been regarded as a 'safe haven' for many sex workers. It allows us to promote our work and embrace the full range of our creativity, without the harsh censures that come with other platforms like Instagram and TikTok,” adult content creator Lucy Banks said, adding that this news has sent “shockwaves” through the community. “There are many workers who have established their entire careers on the back of sizable Twitter followings. For them, the uncertainty is more than just having their Twitter accounts threatened, but also their entire income.”

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Several of those I spoke with said that Musk’s emphasis on “free speech” will be good for NSFW content on the platform. “I think we won’t see any negative changes to adult or nsfw content as he tends to be an open minded forward thinker,” said Sofia Rose, noting that he’s said he hopes his biggest critics stay on the platform. “Elon is controversial and seems to enjoy challenging society from a social perspective. I could be wrong, maybe he isn’t that liberal. Either way I’m not about to hold my breath.” 

“I'm not worried about it at all,” said performer Valentina Bellucci, adding that Twitter hasn’t addressed this so far. “Also, it seems like Elon Musk is a pretty open-minded person and doesn't support censorship, so I don't think sex workers should be worried about him and his potential actions.”

Even though Twitter allows hardcore pornography in tweets and is generally a safer place for adult industry people than anything Mark Zuckerberg owns, it’s still been hostile toward sex in the past, with shadowbanning and unexplained account shutdowns being pervasive. Twitter’s tried tackling its bot problem in the past—one of Musk’s biggest priorities as new owner—and it’s resulted in sex workers being hassled by the platform to prove that they’re real people. “Authenticate all humans” could mean anything from identity verification and real-name requirements—which would be terrible for all marginalized users, including sex workers—to a better CAPTCHA system, which would have relatively little impact on user safety. 

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“If the past few years have taught me anything, it's to expect the unexpected—and that no platform is safe from anti-porn rhetoric”

“It’s always a worry when new people take over companies, platforms etc, considering how frowned upon our job is and how hard it is to promote on platforms without being banned,” adult content creator Yasmin Baker said. 

Brie Nightwood said that since Musk tweeted last year in support of the cryptocurrency CumRocket—boosting its value from $0.06 to $0.28—he may be open-minded about sex on the platform. “In his announcement about purchasing Twitter, he placed a large emphasis on protecting free speech on the platform so I feel as if this would extend to freedom of self-expression as a 18+ creator,” she said. “I hope my current opinion ages well over these next few months because I would love to see a mainstream platform in which sex workers feel safe!” 

GoAskAlex said she’s hopeful that adult creators will still be able to post explicit content, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point. 

“If the past few years have taught me anything, it's to expect the unexpected—and that no platform is safe from anti-porn rhetoric,” she said. Recently, conservative anti-sex work organizations like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which push harmful legislation and policy changes that push sex workers off the internet, have turned their gaze on Twitter; whether Musk is prepared to stand up against that pressure is yet to be seen. “On the flip side, I resent the fact that so many large companies are under the rule of (typically white male) billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. Owning so many facets of the internet gives these men the control of the press, and the ability to dictate what information the general public receives,” GoAskAlex said. “At this point, I'm proceeding with caution.” 

Regardless of Musk’s grand plan for the platform, it’s absolutely concerning (and depressing) that the wealthiest men in the world own and control all of the platforms we use to connect online. “If we want a future where marginalized people, including sex workers, actually have free speech, it's not going to be a world where the richest man on earth can just buy the platform they depend on and change the rules to his liking,” said Evan Greer, director at Fight for the Future.

“It is so difficult to just exist online as a sex worker,” said Banks. “Even when we abide by platform guidelines, our accounts are constantly taken down and restricted. Although there is no indication so far that Twitter will be cracking down on NSFW content, the prospect of future changes creates a feeling of uneasiness.” 

This piece was updated with a quote from Valentina Bellucci.