Craigslist Shutters Personals Section Following Passage Of Sex Trafficking Bill

Craigslist
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It’s the end of an era for denizens of the internet’s seedier side: Craigslist has axed its personal ads in the United States.

The popular classifieds website made the move after the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) on Wednesday, March 21. The act makes it easier for prosecutors and victims of sex trafficking to sue websites that fail to keep exploitative content posted by traffickers off their websites.

In a brief statement posted to Craigslist, the company said:

US Congress just passed HR 1865, "FOSTA", seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully. Any tool or service can be misused. We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day. To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!

Craigslist’s announcement came a day after Reddit banned subreddits that facilitate transactions of illegal goods, monetary or otherwise, including "paid services involving physical sexual contact."

Many tech companies and internet service providers objected to FOSTA, arguing that they should not be held liable for what users post on their platforms.

In August 2017, 10 tech trade groups co-authored a letter condemning the Senate bill. It would have a "chilling effect" on companies, they wrote, and “send a dangerous signal to other countries that are seeking to require U.S. internet services to filter dissenting political speech and allegations of corruption.”

Advocates for sex workers also criticized the act, saying it could result in an already-marginalized community being further excluded, stigmatized, and put at risk.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the legislation “a disaster for internet intermediaries, marginalized communities, and even trafficking victims themselves” that would “force online web platforms to police their users’ activity much more stringently than ever before, silencing a lot of innocent voices in the process.”

In an article for Allure, Alana Massey writes that this bill and others like it “target websites that are widely and inaccurately believed to be hubs of trafficking activity when it is precisely those websites that enable people in the sex trades to do their work safely and independently, at the same time as they make it easier for authorities to find and investigate possible trafficking cases.”

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as this week, likely prompting more companies to follow in Craigslist’s footsteps and adopt stricter control over what’s posted to their platforms in the future.

For now Craigslist continues to operate their Personals Sections in other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. For more information about this service you can read our review of Craigslist Personals.