SESTA's First Victim: Craigslist Shuts Down Personals Section
from the more-to-come dept
It’s not like people didn’t warn about this. But, following Congress passing SESTA (likely to be signed soon by the President), a bunch of sites are already starting to make changes. Craiglist is probably the most notable, announcing that it was completely shutting down its Personals Section:
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!
This is interesting on multiple levels, since the moral panic against online sites that eventually resulted in SESTA actually did start with Craiglist nearly a decade ago, with various state Attorneys General ganging up on the company — despite no legal basis — even threatening criminal charges. Because of all that, Craigslist eventually shut down its “adult” section, which was really what pushed Backpage into the spotlight.
And, as we noted last fall, a recent study showed that when Craigslist shut down its adult section, there was a dramatic increase in homicide, which many attributed to sex workers being unable to use the website to screen clients and protect themselves.
But, either way, the site dropped its adult section entirely all the way back in 2010. And, yet, now it realized it must shut its entire personals section, or potentially face crippling criminal liability. Remember how all the SESTA supporters insisted that SESTA would only target those willfully supporting sex trafficking and wouldn’t do anything against other sites? That’s already been proven wrong.
There are some additional reports of sites or online services no longer working, though it’s not clear if any of them are directly because of SESTA or not, and at least some of them appear to be “escort” sites, which SESTA was clearly targeting anyway (so not “collateral” damage). Some are also suggesting that Reddit closing some subreddits is connected to SESTA as well, though the link there is not entirely clear either.
But a straight up “personals” site like Craigslist? It’s certainly at risk (as is any online dating site) of being declared in violation of SESTA. We’ll be seeing the fallout from SESTA for quite some time.