Craigslist now disallows personal ads on its website after the U.S. Senate voted to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA, which aims websites criminally liable for content that its users post, including prostitution ads and sex-trafficking content. In a statement posted to Craigslist, the company said it does not want to jeopardize its business by continuing to accept personal ads.
It isn’t the first time that Craigslist has pulled its personals section to protest other attacks concerning its hookup-enabling tools. Back in 2010, the site closed that part of its product in response to criticism that it was enabling sex trafficking. But, in The New York Times, Craigslist’s representatives said that it was combatting abuses when found and worked closely with law enforcement. It pointed out that its ability to do so was hampered as many ads went to other platforms, like Backpage.
The bill follows decisions by federal appeals courts in Chicago and Boston that said sex-trafficking victims could not sue Backpage because of the Communications Decency Act.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the bill, saying it would make sites responsible for their users’ speech and behavior in addition to their own, reported C-Net.com.
“Facing the threat of extreme criminal and civil penalties, web platforms large and small would have little choice but to silence legitimate voices,” the EFF warned last month. “Platforms would have to take extreme measures to remove a wide range of postings, especially those related to sex.”
The EFF argued the bill is so broadly written that owners of online platforms who don’t know their sites are being used for sex trafficking are at risk. The foundation also expressed concern because the law allows criminal liability for trafficking that took place before the bill passed.
In hindsight ironically, NewNowNext.com reported Thursday that a city council member in North Carolina is lashing out at hypocritical politicians who preach family values but use gay hookup sites on the down-low.
Charlotte Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield took to Twitter asking if intimate photos posted on Grindr by conservative lawmakers were okay to share: “When candidates and those that are extremely judgmental have a Grindr page with pictures of their private parts, should that be fair game? #knowwhoyoubevoting4”.
FOSTA is an offspring of The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, which was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., John McCain, R-Az., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law this week, and, as a result, it’s likely websites will adopt stricter control and policy over postings on their platforms.