Anyone looking to Craigslist’s M4M section for companionship on Thursday was greeted with a message from the company saying the section had been shut down in the wake of the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The bill would subject sites like Craigslist and other social networking sites to civil and criminal liability for illegal user-generated content.
Those seeking the personals section got a redirect to a message instead.
“Any tool or service can be misused,” the page on Craiglist read. “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.”
The site added, “To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”
Several people online have criticized FOSTA, which purports to limit sex trafficking, as being a bill that will ultimately hurt sex workers, as well. Several sex workers spoke about the importance of the personals section to their livelihood.
“The SESTA-FOSTA bill forces websites to censor sex workers,” one person wrote on Twitter. “Sex workers use websites to screen clients, access support & work independently indoors. If you take this away, ppl can’t screen, or be in an online community. They won’t be safe. People will die”
The SESTA-FOSTA bill forces websites to censor sex workers. Sex workers use websites to screen clients, access support & work independently indoors. If you take this away, ppl can’t screen, or be in an online community. They won’t be safe. People will diehttps://t.co/Uocb0cHiPd
— Whores of Yore (@WhoresofYore) March 22, 2018
Every Sex Worker I Know: “Here are a dozen articles about how SESTA/FOSTA will kill us, please call your Senators”
Craigslist: We’re shutting down personals because of FOSTA
Civilians: “OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING NO ONE WARNED US”
— *Kriss_Lowrance (@kriss_lowrance) March 23, 2018
The bill passed the Senate 97-2, with only Rand Paul and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden against the bill. Wyden explained on his Twitter that the bill was an attack on open internet.
The #SESTA #FOSTA bill before us today will not stop sex trafficking. It will not prevent young people from becoming victims. The #SESTA #FOSTA bill before the Senate will punch a hole in the legal framework of the open internet.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 21, 2018
Queer writer Kitty Stryker wrote on Twitter, “If you think this isn’t a move towards shutting down, not only sex workers, but ‘sexual deviant relationships’ of all kinds (queer, interracial, casual sex, nonmonogamous, etc) then you are naive, my friend.”
Craigslist has removed its personal ads in fear of FOSTA repercussions.
If you think this isn’t a move towards shutting down, not only sex workers, but “sexual deviant relationships” of all kinds (queer, interracial, casual sex, nonmonogamous, etc) then you are naive, my friend. pic.twitter.com/BquLVb68oc
— 🏴Antifa Trash Panda🏴 (@kittystryker) March 23, 2018
The passage of FOSTA and removal of Craigslist’s personals section comes less than three years after the federal government raided the offices of Rentboy.com on prostitution charges.
At the time, Juline Koken, an assistant professor of health sciences at CUNY and co-author of several chapters in Male Sex Work and Society, told news site Mic, “When communication between sex workers and clients is shut down, it’s bad for everybody.”