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Yesterday, activists and sex workers warned on social media that Reddit is cracking down on subreddits after the controversial “sex-trafficking” bill SESTA (also known as FOSTA) passed in the Senate. Now, Craigslist is fearing repercussions of the bill as well, with the site indefinitely removing its entire personals section.
Craigslist released an official statement directly referencing the bill, warning that SESTA subjects websites “to criminal and civil liability” when users “misuse online personals unlawfully.” Craigslist would jeopardize its existence if the personals section remained online, the site explained, so the page was taken down.
“Any tool or service can be misused,” Craigslist wrote. “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.”
jesus christ pic.twitter.com/ZvjFtHgDme— merritt k (@merrittk) March 23, 2018
Craigslist is practically synonymous with both romantic and sexual classifieds, and consensual sex workers regularly obtain new clients through the site. Even outside of sex work, the site’s personals section was a regular spot for meeting new people for hookups, dates, or even platonic hangouts. But that also means any of the site’s personals sections could be misused for sex trafficking, which would hold Craigslist liable for criminal charges once SESTA becomes law.
Suffice to say, Twitter is furious with the section’s removal.
they'll do fucking ANYTHING to make it less safe to hook.— Gretchen Felker-Martin (@scumbelievable) March 23, 2018
When you take away access to online platforms, sex workers are killed at such high rates that you can see the change in *overall* rates of female homicide victims. https://t.co/5DBX04Rs3b— Noah Berlatsky (@nberlat) March 23, 2018
Other websites may follow, too, with some suggesting that dating and hookup apps may be at risk for prosecution under sex trafficking laws.
Craigslist just removed all of the personal ads sections. This is insane. Whats next? Tinder? OkCupid? Plenty of Fish? We told you this would have far reaching consequences but nobody listened. It's only going to get worse.#FOSTA #SESTA #LetUsSurvive #Censorship #InternetFreedom— ☠ Goddess Lysistrata ☠ (@MissLysiNyc) March 23, 2018
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter & gmail could shut down if Big Brother decides they're helping facilitate #HumanTrafficking. By shutting sites, trafficking goes further underground & sexworkers end up on the streets being murdered at a higher rate #SESTA https://t.co/AWPgztStkw— Mistress M (@Naked_Therapist) March 22, 2018
There goes Tinder.— The Southern Shade (@ShadySoutherner) March 23, 2018
Don’t worry, when Tinder and Grindr shut down and all the civvies loss their hookups and sugar babies SESTA/FOSTA will be repealed faster than you can swipe right. #fuckthisgovernment— Nikki Irish (@Nikki_Irish) March 23, 2018
Craigslist isn’t the only website that removed its personals section after SESTA passed in the Senate. Adult dating website CityVibe closed its doors yesterday, and the Erotic Review shut down its U.S. adult ads section “pending further review of the recent law and its outcome.”
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.