What happened to Switter?
We shut Switter down on March 14th 2022 due to the collective weight of the recent anti-sex and anti-LGBTQAI+ legislative moves which made the continued operation of Switter untenable.
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What was Switter?
Switter was a sex work-friendly social network that launched on March 18th, 2018 by Assembly Four, a small team of technologists and sex workers in Melbourne, Australia, in response to the shadow banning and deplatforming endured by sex workers on websites such as Twitter and Instagram.
Switter ran on the open source social media software, Mastodon, and quickly became a popular and easy to use alternative to mainstream social media sites who were increasingly implementing punitive, misguided, and carceral content moderation frameworks largely in response to moral panic. Within the first week, we had over 13,000 users, and by the end of our first month we had 56,000 workers, clients, and allies on the platform.
At the time of closure, Switter was:
- 3rd biggest Mastodon instance in the fediverse
- 435,490 users
- 9,193,510 toots (tweets)
- 8,625,422 replies
- 16,685,010 reblogs (retweets)
- 4,941,056 favourites
While we’re sad to say goodbye, we are eager to preserve your farewells. We’ll be collecting posts under the hashtag
#FarewellSwitter` on Twitter and Mastodon to display on here.
Why was Switter created?
The internet, and utilisation of platforms like Twitter and Instagram, allowed sex workers to work safer by giving them the ability to screen their clients, connect with community, share resources, and organise. This was particularly true during COVID-19, allowing some workers to move to or augment with online work.
In those early days, Switter was famously booted off Cloudflare without so much as an email notifying us, though the service continued to protect white supremacists and other hate groups.
Switter quickly became a lifesaving refuge for sex workers around the world. The introduction of US packaged bills FOSTA/SESTA, the seizure of popular ad site Backpage.com, and the political and economic instability felt in the ensuing years led to wider, unintended, negative consequences to workers existing online.
Switter existed as a place where moderation decisions were made with consideration of how they would impact sex workers, rather than seeing them as an expendable user base.
Why did we shut it down?
The introduction and passage of ignorant and misguided anti-sex and anti-LGBTQIA+ policy and legislation around the world has only increased since 2018.
Often confusing, contradictory, vaguely worded, and sold as a mechanism to prevent violence against women and children, legislation such as the Australian Online Safety Act, the EARNIT ACT, and the UK Online Safety Bill fail to acknowledge the realities of what they seek to change or harm reduction and preventive measures, instead relying on surveillance and control.
Despite working tirelessly with human rights organisations to ensure policy makers and legislators understood that there would be a body count attached to their poorly considered actions, Assembly Four was forced to close Switter in March of 2022. You can, and should, read Assembly Four’s full statement on the closure.
Coverage of the closure
- Switter, the Twitter for Sex Workers, Is Shutting Down by Samantha Cole for Vice
- ‘Now we don’t have a safe place’: sex workers’ social media site Switter shuts down amid legal fears by Josh Taylor for The Guardian
- Sex worker-friendly platform Switter will shut down in March by Gigi Fong for Hyperbae
- Switter Shutdown Highlights Flaws In Recent Internet Censorship Laws by Electronic Frontiers Australia
- In solidarity with Switter by Digital Rights Watch
How do I help prevent the next platform closure?
Unfortunately these legislative measures aren’t likely to cease anytime soon. If you would like to stay up to date with policy concerning Sex Work, free speech online and digital rights, we highly recommend following the below organisations on social media or subscribing to their newsletters.
- SWOP USA
- Free Speech Coalition
- Adult Performers Artists Guild
- Electronic Frontiers Foundation
- Switter: My six week rollercoaster ride
- Thank you for shaping Switter's first 50 days!
- We've hit 100k!