In response to the Senate passing H.R.1865, an anti-online sex trafficking bill that has the potential to seriously harm consenting, adult sex workers, Craigslist has shuttered its all of its personals sections. Even the platonic ones.
Early Friday morning, Craigslist made a public post regarding the bill commonly known as FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) that explained the logic behind their decision to shut down one of the most widely-used subsections of the platform. The message was straight and to the point:
“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!”
In a post-FOSTA world, websites like Craigslist where sex workers commonly posted ads for their services would be legally responsible for the whatever kinds of illegal interactions users ultimately took part in.
In the most ideal of situations, a bill like FOSTA could play a role in fighting off sex trafficking. In reality though, the bill (as is the case here) is causing a chilling effect that gooses sites like Craigslist to close up at least part of their shop and actively hurts consenting sex workers who rely on the website. As drastic as it may seem, it’s easy to understand the why of Craigslist’s decision to avoid the consequences of FOSTA, but the question now is whether other sites frequently used by sex workers will follow suit.