Mayor's Task Force on Human Trafficking - October 24, 2018 - Supporting Documents

Meeting Date: 
October 24, 2018 - 1:30pm

Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking Meeting Minutes

August 22, 2018               1:30 pm - 3:30 pm          

25 Van Ness Avenue, room 70, San Francisco, CA 94102



Jen Callewaert, Department of Public Health; Saerom Choi, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach; Ifasina Clear, Young Women’s Freedom Center; Carly Devlin, Huckleberry Youth Programs; Cristy Dietrich, Department of Public Health; Tony Flores, San Francisco Police Department; Maria Gaillac, NCCAHT; Rita Jovick, NCCAHT; Minouche Kandel, Department on the Status of Women; Antonia Lavine, National Council of Jewish Women; Carol Leigh, BAYSWAN; Sue Lockyear, Graduate Student; Pike Long, St James Infirmary; alix lutnick, RTI; Paola Martin del Campo, Safe and Sound; Beverly May, California Massage Therapy Council; Kristen Moore, SF Safehouse; Rose Mukhar, Justice At Last, Emily Murase, Department on the Status of Women; Jacqueline Ortiz, District Attorney Victim Services; Miguel Palmer, Love Never Fails; Jenny Pearlman, Safe and Sound; Kyoko Peterson, Department on the Status of Women; JaMel Perkins, Freedom FWD; Teddi Silverman, National Council of Jewish Women; Sarai Smith-Mazariegos, SHADE Movement; Mary Steiner, UNA USA/SF; Dongmei Tan, Department of Public Health; Monique Thomas, Larkin Street DYS; Alia Whitney-Johnson, Freedom FWD; Jessica Wright, Larkin Street DYS; Dominic Yin, San Francisco Police Department; Karina Zhang, Family and Children’s Services; Iris Zhu, Department of Public Health;


  1. Welcome/Introductions/Check-In [Minouche Kandel]


  1. Approval of Minutes from 6-27-18 Meeting [JaMel Perkins/Tony Flores]


  1. Creating a Welcoming Space for Survivors at Task Force Meetings
    1. Sarai Smith-Mazariegos continued her presentation on survivor leadership and inclusion from the June 27th Mayor’s Task Force General Meeting. She previously covered the use of imagery, labeling, locus of control, and trauma informed care.
    2. In this meeting, Ms. Smith-Mazariegos covered what is appropriate for survivor engagement, the transition from victim to survivor to leader, the role of allies, and the survivor leadership ladder.
    3. Someone asked Ms. Smith-Mazariegos how she feels this task force is doing on survivor leadership and inclusion. She said to make sure to listen to everyone and be aware whose ideas are being moved forward and whose ideas are not. Someone else asked what imagery is appropriate and Ms. Smith-Mazariegos recommended not relying as much on imagery.


  1. Committee/Recommendation Updates
    1. Sex Work and Trafficking Policy Impact Committee: Review position paper on FOSTA
      1. Voting Procedures: Minouche Kandel went over the voting procedures for the task force. Only official members who have attended enough meetings and gone through the application process can vote. A majority of all members are needed to pass something, not just a majority of members at the meeting. A majority of all members would be 10 members.
      2. Presentation: Saerom Choi presented about the position paper authored by the Sex Work and Trafficking Policy Impact Committee. The position paper states that the FOSTA law conflates sex work with sex trafficking, denies individuals engaged in sex work access to online platforms that they use for safety, pushes more individuals towards street-based sex work which has a higher risk of violence, and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to investigate.
      3. Discussion:
        1. Some members shared their perspective on the impact of FOSTA. An increase in street-based sex work in the Mission District has been observed. Members from the Police Department shared that they have seen a ripple effect after the closure of Backpage and that more sites have popped up on the internet. They said that the demand for sex work has not changed with the law, and that they are seeing competition between sex workers. Some asked whether the position against FOSTA includes the provision that allows trafficking survivors to sue websites for civil damages.
        2. There was discussion of FOSTA harming people who in sex work through coercion and through choice.
        3. There was also discussion about what actions the task force would take after voting on this position paper, and some members expressed reservations about voting on the position paper without specific actions or solutions in place. Some expressed interest in amending FOSTA instead of being opposed entirely and others asked about the positive aspects of FOSTA.
        4. Emily Murase from the Department on the Status of Women reminded the Task Force that if this position paper passed, it would be advisory to the mayor, but it would not necessarily reflect the mayor’s position.
        5. Outcome: 6 official members voted to support the position paper, 2 voted to not support it. There were several official members present that abstained from voting. The position paper did not pass.
        6. After the vote was taken, some members expressed confusion about the voting procedures and said that the procedures were new to them. There was discussion about who was a voting member, whether people can vote by email, and what the policies on abstaining are. At least one official member abstained from voting because they were waiting for approval from the policy team in their organization.


  1. Report on Analysis of Services for Survivors of Sex Trafficking in SF
    1. Sue Lockyear, a graduate student at San Francisco State University, gave a presentation of her analysis of services for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting this analysis with the National Council of Jewish Women.
    2. She interviewed direct service providers and others about service needs, gaps and barriers to service, collaboration, and recommendations.  She found that housing is a critical need, that there is a desire for better trauma informed care, that services can be fragmented, and that people need to view survivors holistically. One idea that came out the interviews was a forum where case managers can communicate with each other.


  1. Update on Evaluation of Task Force evaluation
    1. Due to a lack of time, it was decided to move alix lutnick’s presentation to the next meeting.


  1. Announcements
    1. San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking 2018 Conference
      1. Tuesday, September 25th, 2018, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm; California State Building • Milton Marks Conference Center • 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco CA
      2. This conference is sponsored by the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women.


Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking Position Paper On FOSTA

The Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking opposes the recently passed federal legislation Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 1865) (“FOSTA”).  FOSTA creates harm for those engaging in sex trades, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion.  The purpose of this position paper is to acknowledge the negative impacts of FOSTA, and to take a stand that reflects our focus on harm reduction strategies and is consistent with the Mission Statement of our Task Force, which includes:


The Task Force works through a collaboration of government, business, and community-based organizations, and includes those affected by trafficking and policies developed to address trafficking. 

The Task Force makes policy recommendations to improve the lived experiences of persons who are trafficked.

The language in FOSTA states that “websites can be prosecuted if they knowingly engage in the promotion or facilitation of prostitution or facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.” This language falsely conflates all prostitution and other forms of sex work with trafficking. This conflation will increase the risks of harm and exploitation associated with sex work and will hinder the efforts of law enforcement and private watchdogs to identify trafficking victims and prosecute traffickers. Shutting down websites that people use to advertise sexual services will hurt people who sell sex, including victims of trafficking.


One of the most noticeable and serious harms is the disappearance of online forums,

including, but not limited to, classified-ad-style websites, that people in the sex industry use to

stay safe.[1] By listing their services online, they were able to screen clients, protect their identities, and arrange safe meeting places. With the disappearance of these sites because of FOSTA, people selling sex, including those who are being trafficked, have been pushed in to street-based sex work, which is far more dangerous. People engaged in street-based sex work are far more likely to experience violence or exploitation. This is equally true for those who voluntarily enter the sex industry as well as for those whose involvement is because of force, fraud, or coercion. Street-based sex work also increases marginalization and isolation, which in turn increases violence, and diminishes someone’s ability to reach out for help when needed.


The 2017 study, “Craigslist’s Effect on Violence Against Women,” illustrates the importance of online advertising to keeping individuals selling sex off the streets and safer. The authors of the study looked at the effect of Craigslist’s “erotic services” section on the safety of women. They found a 17.4% reduction in the female homicide rate following the introduction of “erotic services.” The authors suggest this reduction in female violence “was the result of street prostitutes moving indoors and matching more efficiently with safer clients.”[2]


The loss of online advertising platforms also drives people selling sex to exploitative third-party controllers, who take advantage of their increased vulnerability. Involvement with exploitative third parties also greatly exacerbates the risks of violence and exploitation. The reason for this is that it is much harder to stay safe on your own when working outside. The move to street-based sex work will compel people to need a third party to help connect them to clients and provide some types of safety while they are involved in sex trades.


Law enforcement efforts will also be negatively impacted by the elimination of online advertisements. For many years, law enforcement officials have accessed ads to help them fight human trafficking. Eliminating these online venues will make it more difficult to both locate potential victims of trafficking and to build cases against traffickers. From a law enforcement perspective, online profiles make it far easier to identify trafficking victims than when they are working on the street. For example, Eric Quan, a sergeant in the human-trafficking unit with the San Jose Police Department, noted that the closure of Backpage resulted in a conspicuous rise in street prostitution in San Jose. According to Sergeant Quan, “When Backpage was running adult ads, we used to get tips, but that has dropped off. It makes it a lot more complicated for us to figure out what’s going on.”[3]


Having online advertising venues makes it easier to screen ads for potential trafficking. For example, a lot of law enforcement agencies scrub online ads looking for indicators of trafficking, such as pictures of people who look underage. Responsible website administration can also make trafficking more visible, which can lead to increased identification. Internet sites also provide a digital footprint that law enforcement can use to investigate trafficking into the sex trade, and to locate trafficking victims. A 2016 State Department report found that being able to access sites like Backpage, the number of identified victims of sex trafficking increased over a seven-year period from fewer than 31,000 to nearly 78,000.[4] Online profiles similarly assist prosecutors because they often allow them to link phone numbers from people being charged with trafficking to other online ads (thus identifying more potential victims).


In addition to advertising, those in and adjacent to the sex industry used their own and third-party websites to post bad date lists – typically user-generated lists of clients with whom sex workers are warned not to engage – and to distribute occupational health and safety information, to link to health service providers and other community resources. These sites are now under threat because they could be seen as “promoting prostitution.”  In San Francisco, the Department on the Status of Women helps to fund a bad date list run by St. James Infirmary.


Shutting down websites will not eradicate trafficking in commercial sex or sex work. Instead it will

make things more dangerous for those who are involved in sex trades. Shutting down websites affects the most marginalized people in the sex industry, including those being trafficked. The best way to protect people involved in sex trades from both physical harm and exploitation is for peers to develop, run, or maintain screening mechanisms to assess whether someone is being forced to sell sex, or as a minor are trading sex to survive.[5]  Unfortunately, FOSTA makes it impossible to operate such forums.


Last updated: October 10, 2018


[1] This position paper is not meant to conflict with any current or future provisions of Article 29 of the San Francisco Health Code, which regulate the types of advertisements used by Massage Businesses.

[4] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report. (2016).

[5] Jana, S., B. Dey, S. Reza-Paul, and R. Steen. 2013. Combating human trafficking in the sex trade: Can sex workers do it better? Journal of Public Health (Oxford) 36 (4): 622–628.