Craigslist removed its personal ads section in the wake of a bill to stop online sex-trafficking was passed in Congress this week, the New York Post reported.
What will the bill do?
The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act holds website owners criminally liable for content users post, according to the report. That includes prostitution ads and sex-trafficking content.
Visitors to the personal ads section on Craigslist now receive a message that states:
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!
Also in response to Congress' action, Reddit banned sex-worker subreddits, which included ads for "escorts, male escorts, hookers and SugarDaddy," the Post reported.
Previously, websites like Craigslist and Backpage did not face legal liability for user-generated content.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against FOSTA, which passed 97-2 in the Senate on Wednesday. It is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Previously, Wyden told CNN: "The failure to understand the technological side effects of this bill — specifically that it will become harder to expose sex-traffickers, while hamstringing innovation — will be something that this Congress will regret."
Could this make it less safe?
A report by the Huffington Post said that FOSTA could make it less safe for voluntary sex workers.
The rate of female homicides in U.S. cities fell by 17 percent after Craigslist created an erotic services section, according to a 2017 study led by Baylor University economics professor Scott Cunningham. That excludes domestic crimes and other situations where the victim knew the killer.
Researchers at Baylor concluded that sex workers who advertised online faced less of a risk than those who were walking the streets.
Cunningham, who has studied sex work for 10 years, told HuffPost that removing the personal ads could force more sex workers and victims of sex trafficking onto the streets or into the darker corners of the web.
And that can pose a greater safety risk for everyone, Cunningham told the HuffPost.
“Prostitutes have the highest homicide rates of any female occupation in the country,” Cunningham said. “They have been targeted by serial killers, violent men, and they are viewed as disposable, as people nobody will miss.”