Craigslist will no longer display personal ads on its website after the Senate voted to pass the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act yesterday. The bill means websites will be held liable for hosting sex trafficking content. It will also make it easier for victims of sex trafficking and prosecutors to sue companies that fail to keep exploitative content from their websites.
In a statement posted to Craigslist, the company said it did not want to jeopardize its business by continuing to accept personal ads. The following statement appears whenever a user clicks on any of the category links under the “Personals” column of the site:
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.
Some users have vented their frustration on Twitter at the purge of personal ads, with many also mourning the loss of the site’s Missed Connections posts. Missed Connections allowed users to post serendipitous messages searching for people they’d randomly spoken to or shared eye contact with on the train, for example.
The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act was introduced to crack down on sex trafficking on the internet where sites like backpage.com are used for sex ads. But, it has also sparked opposition from sex workers and some free-internet activists who say the bill is a form of censorship and will also place an unrealistic burden on small website operators. The bill updates Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which shields companies from liability for content posted by their users.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as this week, and, as a result, it’s likely we’ll see websites and services adopt stricter control and policy over what’s posted on their platforms moving forward.