Craigslist Shuts Down Personals Section in Response to FOSTA
Craigslist has shut down its “Personals” section.
Craigslist made the move in response to Congress passing the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, also known as FOSTA. What FOSTA aims to do is to hold responsible websites that host sex trafficking transactions. And it’s in response to a case repeatedly thrown out of court against Backpage.com, which was hosting ads for child sex trafficking victims as well as adult escorts.
Why can’t they [websites] be held responsible? It’s because of something that’s been around since 1996 — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That act says you can’t hold a website responsible for something illegal that someone might be doing on that website. So, for example, if someone uploads child pornography to YouTube, that uploader can be arrested and YouTube can take the video down and suspend the channel, but YouTube itself can’t be held liable for any wrongdoing.
Section 230 has been a cornerstone of the free and open Internet for decades.
Free speech advocates still point to it as an essential tool for the modern Internet. After all, without Section 230, sites like Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, Yelp, could be besieged by lawsuits every time a corporation thinks one of their users has written something libelous.
But the argument against Backpage.com is that executives knew something illegal was going on on their platform, and they ignored it. And that’s why there are PSA’s like this with celebrities telling us that the law has to change. Watch —
What Craigslist is afraid of is that they could be held criminally liable for some bad behavior they know nothing about. They’re response to FOSTA is brief. Read it below —
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!
Basically, they’re saying, since we can’t guarantee that nobody will ever post something they shouldn’t in our Personals section, we’re just going to shut the whole thing down. Interestingly enough, “Missed Connections” is still up on Craigslist. It’s in the “Community” section, not the “Personals” section, so I guess that matters.
There’s also a concern that FOSTA will hurt consenting sex workers, who frequently use sites like Backpage and Craigslist to conduct business. As a Seattle sex worker told The Stranger: “Every time Rentboy or Backpage or any of those sites are shut down, it’s actually putting sex workers more at risk, because we don’t have a way of verifying that this person is who they say they are.”
And it’s more than just Craigslist being affected for sex workers. The Escorts and Hookers subreddits have been banned on Reddit, and sex worker Ms Alex Empire tweeted: “FOSTA is already systematically dismantling our resources.”
Finally, many trafficking experts say that FOSTA and SESTA will actually make it harder to track down and arrest sex traffickers. Freedom Network USA says: “Responsible website administrators can, and do, provide important data and information to support criminal investigations. Reforming [Section 230] to include the threat of civil litigation could deter responsible website administrators from trying to identify and report trafficking.”
They’re saying this bill might actually make it easier for sex traffickers to get away with what they’re doing.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden, one of the original authors of Section 230, tweeted: “The bill before us today will not stop sex trafficking. It will not prevent young people from becoming victims. The bill before the Senate will punch a hole in the legal framework of the open internet.” But Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, who voted in favor of SESTA, the Senate counterpart to FOSTA, tweeted: “Our bill will unleash local prosecutors on the front lines of law enforcement to go after those who knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. Finally.”
Do you think Craigslist made the right call in taking down its Personal ads? Let us know in the comments.
For more stories, follow us on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.