Searching for love or…something similar? Don’t trying looking for it on Craigslist.
The site has removed all personal ads following the passage of a controversial anti sex-trafficking bill. The legislation—known as FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) or SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)—is meant to “help ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking” by holding websites and other platforms more liable for what people post. But critics say it will actually do the opposite.
The bill passed the Senate this week by a vote of 97-2 and now heads to President Trump’s desk.
FOSTA seeks to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Specifically, it would hold accountable websites that “unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”
The “might sound noble,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues, but Section 230 already “strikes an important balance for when online platforms can be held liable for their users’ speech,” and it does not “protect platforms that break federal criminal law.”
FOSTA “will silence online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users” and “put trafficking victims in more danger,” the EFF says.
BREAKING: Today is a dark day for the Internet. Congress just passed the Internet censorship bill SESTA/FOSTA. pic.twitter.com/uvVM95hvDX
— EFF (@EFF) March 21, 2018
In a note announcing its decision, Craigslist explains that the bill may “subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.”
“Any tool or service can be misused,” Craigslist continued. “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!”
As The Outline reports, Reddit has also shut down several forums that might run afoul of FOSTA.
In 2010, Craigslist permanently shut down its “adult services” section amidst pressure from state attorneys general and human rights organizations, which said the site was teeming with ads for prostitution and trafficking children.