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Removing Sex Work From the Internet May Make It More Dangerous: Grant from Woodhull Freedom Foundation to Support John Jay Study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — June 2, 2022 — Washington, DC

(New York, NY)— A grant from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation will support a new study on the effects of “de-platforming” adult sex workers in the U.S. conducted by Professor Samantha Majic of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Melissa Ditmore, a student at the CUNY School of Public Health & Health Policy and Graduate Center alum.

De-platforming is when a digital platform stops featuring or accepting advertising from certain individuals or companies, in this case platforms like Craigslist Erotic Services, Backpage, myRedBook and Rentboy no longer accepting advertising for sex workers.

“Past research shows that criminalizing sex work does little to make workers safer. Bills like NY State’s SB3075, which would decriminalize some prostitution offenses, are a slow and small step towards recognizing this reality,” said Professor Majic. “Now with de-platforming, we want to understand the extent to which pushing sex work further back into the shadows puts people in more danger.”

“Some sex workers say they’ve experienced an uptick in violence after the websites where they advertised closed down,” said Dr. Ditmore. “There have been some important smaller studies by sex-worker led and community groups, and now thanks to the Woodhull Freedom Foundation we will be able to communicate directly with sex workers and get a clear, bigger picture of the impact.”According to media reports and sex workers themselves, the potential effects of these closures vary from loss of income to violence, from immigration issues to interactions with police. The researchers hope their study will lead to better policy and advocacy that advances sex workers’ occupational health and safety.

“Woodhull is thrilled to assist with this essential study which we hope will demonstrate the dangerous consequences of de-platforming sex workers,” said Ricci Joy Levy, President and CEO of Woodhull Freedom Foundation. “We are thankful to our donors who have helped make this study a reality.”

In collaboration with sex worker community groups, Drs. Majic and Ditmore will create and distribute a national online survey through which sex workers can share their experiences. They’ll follow up with in-depth interviews with a group of respondents.

They plan to publish the results in 2023.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: 
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) is committed to promoting and sustaining healthier populations in New York City and around the world through excellence in education, research, and service in public health and by advocating for sound policy and practice to advance social justice and improve health outcomes for all.


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Ricci Levy
President & CEO
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