- Congress just passed an act intended to fight online sex trafficking by punishing anyone (or any site) that facilitates online sex trafficking.
- Unable to ensure that its personals section – where people post for platonic or romantic relationships – would be able to oblige, Craigslist was forced to shut it down on its US website.
- A message on Craigslist says the company is hopeful it can bring the section back one day, and “To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through Craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”
Craigslist, the decades-old website for online classifieds ads, took down the section it created to help strangers meet from its US site on Friday morning in light of an act passed by Congress to fight online sex trafficking.
Craigslist, which was created by Craig Newmark, connects people based on what city they’re in to get them what they need, whether that be housing, a piece of furniture, or a platonic friend. But the personals section also includes subcategories for romantic relationships like “women seeking women,” “misc romance,” and “casual encounters,” often misused by locals as a way to pay for (or get paid for) sexual relations.
This new act known as “FOSTA” – now on its way to the president’s desk – allows “states and victims to fight online sex trafficking,” which counters the section of the Communications Act of 1934 that previously protected Craigslist from any liability.
The Communications Act (also known as the Communications Decency Act) says websites can’t be held liable for its users’ actions, but FOSTA’s language makes clear that the old law wasn’t intended to protect websites that “facilitate prostitution,” and imposes a 10-year prison term and/or a fine on anyone who operates an online service that does.
Finding it impossible to monitor the tens of millions of Americans who use the site every year, Craigslist opted to shut down the personals section to prevent any kind of potential lawsuit under FOSTA.
Business Insider reached out to Newmark for comment, but didn’t immediately hear back.
The personals section is still where it last was, but clicking on any of the subcategories on the site pulls up a message from the company explaining why the personals section is gone, and wishing well to the people who benefited from it:
“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!”