Craigslist has just announced they will shut down its hugely popular personals section in response to the Senate passing H.R.1865, FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act).
Posted this morning to their website:
“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, this means that websites such as Craigslist could be held legally responsible for whatever kind of illegal sex work interactions users take part on their website. The problem here being is that much of said sex work is between consenting adults and poses no danger to either party. Sex work should not be a crime.
Yes, of course there are horror stories to be found. There is no end to the amount of violence against women you can find in the country and online. So I understand the general idea behind the bill - to protect women. But, maybe … also … to control women. A little bit. Just sayin.
Best case scenario, this bill is designed to curb the growing online sex traffic industry and some might feel that right there to be a moral victory. And if you feel that way - fine. Have at it. And if it does protect people - that’s great news! Personally, I don’t have a problem with consensual adults engaging in sex acts - paid or otherwise. And neither should the Senate.
If FOSTA was a bill fighting underage sex trafficking that would be another story. Underage sex trafficking is a huge crime and often involves kidnapping, slavery and brutality against children & teenage girls and boys. The Senate should be specifically tackling that issue and not generally going after adult sex workers who may or may not be (but probably are) consenting.
Much has been written about backpage.com and its blatant sex trafficking and many believe FOSTA to be a direct reaction to this site, specifically. But there has been a lot of controversy that backpage.com participates in underage sex trafficking. Again, underage sex trafficking is a serious crime and those caught working in such a field should go to jail for a long time. Or worse.
It does not appear there is evidence that Craigslist was purposely allowing underage sex trafficking on their site. That being said, I understand why Craigslist made the decision they did. They could be held legally actionable if consenting sex workers use their site to find clients. It looks like Reddit altered their “content policy” this morning too, posting:
“We want to let you know that we have made a new addition to our content policy forbidding transactions for certain goods and services. As of today, users may not use Reddit to solicit or facilitate any transaction or gift involving certain goods and services, including:
When considering a gift or transaction of goods or services not prohibited by this policy, keep in mind that Reddit is not intended to be used as a marketplace and takes no responsibility for any transactions individual users might decide to undertake in spite of this. Always remember: you are dealing with strangers on the internet.”
For more about fighting underage sex trafficking visit the unicef page here.
UNICEF - the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.