Craigslist shelves personal ads after US passes controversial sex-trafficking bill

23 Mar 2018

Craigslist pulls its personal ad page in the US. Image: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Craigslist pulls its US personal ads section after Congress passes trafficking bill.

Craigslist is one of the most popular classified ad websites in the world and, up until recently, had a thriving personal ads section on its platform.

Many people used the section to meet and date other users, but it was also popular among sex workers to make arrangements with clients.

The website made the decision to shutter its personal ad section in the US following the passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex-Trafficking Act yesterday (22 March) in the US, which will make websites in the country liable for hosting sex-trafficking content.

The bill aims to make it simpler for victims of trafficking, as well as prosecution teams, to sue companies that are found to have exploitative content on their platforms.

Craigslist wrote: “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 jeopardising all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day.”

Sex workers criticise the bill

Some people, including many sex workers and adult performers, said the bill would actually make it less safe to conduct their jobs.

US women’s rights groups wrote to US Congress on 21 March, saying the bill would “undermine efforts to protect sex workers from violence, provide harm reduction services, and identify and support survivors of trafficking by pushing trafficking further underground. It also violates sex workers’ rights to freedom of association and free speech.”

An effort to reduce trafficking

The bill states that “websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts” could see owners or operators facing jail terms or fines.

The act was introduced in an effort to reduce sex trafficking on the internet, in particular ads that are used to sell sex. US president Donald Trump is likely to sign the bill into law in the next number of days and other websites and services may adopt stricter policy and control over what content is posted on their platforms once it is in force.

Reddit also shuttered its escorts message board in light of the new regulations. The company said “paid services involving physical sexual contact” were now in violation of its most recent policies.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects