Digital Rights

The situation

The digitalisation of the public and private spheres in Europe is exacerbated by global market competition and the COVID-19 pandemic. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are becoming ever more widespread amongst general populations as well as sex workers. While this digitalisation brings many benefits to sex workers' lives and changes their working habits, new threats are emerging due to harmful laws governing sex work, digital spaces and the weaponisation of these technologies. Additionally, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already being deployed in many European countries, and their use is expected to increase due to the EU's aim to become a 'leader' in this area. The adoption of these technologies brings potential risks that civil society has to address to safeguard the human rights of marginalised and criminalised communities.

In order to counter the potential harms of digitalisation, ESWA works on areas relevant to sex workers. Some of the intersecting topics for sex workers in Europe and Central Asia when it comes to digital rights are: 

  • Online censorship and digital discrimination
  • Data protection and online privacy 
  • Digitally facilitated violence, including hate speech and image-based abuse
  • Platformisation of sex work and labour rights
  • Weaponisation of new technologies and practices, including AI use in anti-trafficking and mass surveillance tools

Our objectives

The experiences and rights of sex workers are increasingly recognised and protected in discussions and measures to safeguard digital freedoms and privacy.

  • The rights violations experienced by sex workers are recognised in the debate on digital rights and freedoms by civil society organisations, tech companies and policy and decision-makers.
  • The sex workers rights movement in Europe and Central Asia is primed and actively engaged in the debate on digital rights and freedoms.
  • Civil Society leaders on digital rights and privacy understand the issues impacting sex workers and show allyship.

Our current activities

ESWA's Digital Rights Programme is funded by the European Artificial Intelligence and Society Fund and Luminate to develop advocacy and capacity-building activities as well as conducting research to ensure the voices of civil society, including marginalised communities such as sex workers, are included in debates and policy-making on artificial intelligence and digital rights.

ESWA has developed an exciting programme that will include consultations with its members on the impact of AI on sex workers’ rights, particularly in relation to surveillance, privacy and censorship. As part of its programme, ESWA creates resources such as policy papers and tool kits to advocate for the inclusion of sex workers in the digital rights field and the development of AI policies that do not infringe on sex workers’ rights – in particular, the most marginalised sex workers, such as undocumented, LGBTQI, or racialised sex workers. ESWA also conducts trainings for sex workers’ communities to build their capacity and knowledge of AI and digital rights.

For more information on our digital rights programme and our activities, please contact our Programme Officer Yigit, at [email protected]