Linktree, the popular reference landing page platform, has banned multiple sex workers from its services this week. A handful of sex workers spoke to Vice about the issue, which seems to have cropped up almost overnight.
Those affected by the apparently sweeping ban woke up this morning to a simple message: “This account has been removed due to inappropriate use of this service.” The message did not include any further information about why the user’s account had been removed.
A quick Twitter search for “Linktree” turns up a not-insignificant number of users complaining about this very issue. Some mention that they’d been paying for Linktree’s premium subscription and have not received any sort of refund.
Marlene Bonnelly, Head of Trust & Safety at Linktree, provided the following statement to Input:
Per our company's policies, the Linktree accounts banned stemmed from sharing a URL which violated Community Standards by sharing advertisements for the sale of real-life sexual services.
Sudden, unannounced enforcement — Linktree’s widespread ban is made all the more confusing by the fact that its community guidelines haven’t even changed recently. The platform’s guidelines around “adult content” say the linked content must be legal and labeled as sensitive content; users also must ensure all media on the Linktree itself is “suitable for all ages.”
This is not new language, which most likely means Linktree simply woke up this week and decided it was time to enforce the policy on a wider basis. Given just how far-reaching the ban seems to be, it was most likely carried out by an algorithm of sorts. It’s unclear whether or not the ban affected any sex workers who were not linking out to real-life services.
The internet’s porn vendetta — Okay, you might be thinking, if Linktree is cracking down on sex work, why not just move to another linking platform? The problem with this logic is that moving to another platform guarantees nothing. Linktree has seemed like a stable choice for sex workers up until this week — any other site could easily follow the same pattern.
This very pattern is, unfortunately enough, a norm for the internet. Many sites that seem “safe” for sex workers — even those created explicitly for sex workers — all too often end up pulling the rug out from beneath their users at random. Companies face intense pressure from various third parties to keep sex work to a minimum on the internet. It’s always sex workers that end up hurting the most.
The list of platforms comfortable with hosting sex workers is shrinking at an alarming rate. We can now take Linktree off that list, too. Don’t worry, though — it’ll surely still be fine if you’re an antivaxxer or a conspiracy theorist.