Craigslist shut down its personals section in response to a new sex trafficking law passed by Congress. The personals section of the website was taken down suddenly and without notice. All the ads at the time of the removal have also been scrubbed from the website.
This move could also spark other websites to shut down similar services.
Personals Be Gone
In a post in the early morning of March 23, Craigslist announced it would be removing its personal section due to the Senate passing H.R.1865, called the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). The anti-sex trafficking bill includes penalties that use fines and prison time of up to ten years to punish websites for unlawfully promoting and facilitating sex work.
The law also punishes websites if they allow people to perform unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims. In its post, Craigslist says that punishing websites when people misuse the personals unlawfully led to the elimination of the section. They argue that any tool can be misused and that it cannot take such a risk putting the rest of the website in danger of being shut down.
It adds that it hopes to be able to add the section again someday. One of the casualties among the personals section is the missed connections section. It lets people put out a feeler for someone that they may be searching for after not getting their contact information.
People have taken to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction with Craigslist after they shut down the personals section.
The U.S. Senate altered the existing law to be able to fight Backpage, which it argued was promoting sex trafficking through its personal ads. Modifying the law made it illegal to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.
This law was passed to close a loophole in a 1996 law that protected websites from content that was posted by users. The Communications Decency Act was cited by Backpage to say that it wasn't responsible for the content of the ads that were being posted. Backpage did take down its escorts section after law enforcement came after the website.
The passage of FOSTA will make it harder for sex workers who used websites such as Craigslist to promote their services. Any website that would be doing this would be in violation of the bill and would be subject to penalties under it.