Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

After years of vigorous use, wisecracks, and legal controversy around one of the web's oldest romance hubs, Craigslist has shut down its personals in response to new legal liability.

The (mostly) free online marketplace Craigslist announced today it was suspending all of its personal listings, which have been providing users with ways to connect, as well as some typically entertaining reading, for nearly 20 years.

The decision follows Congress' passage of HR 1865, or the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017" (FOSTA), which aims to "subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully," according to the site.

A statement on the company's website (which its personal sections now link to) explains:

    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 recent years, Craigslist and other online marketplaces have drawn increasing scrutiny over their use by child and sex traffickers, as well as users who go on to commit other illegal or violent acts.

According to some sex workers' advocates, closing down adult services forums may actually lead to an increase in violence against women and create new financial hardships, rather than improve matters. janetwburns files 2018 03 Craigslist02
A picture shows the Craigslist world headquarters in San Francisco, CA in 2006. (Credit: CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

For internet users of a certain age, Craigslist's now-removed "Missed Connections" section has long been an especially beloved portion of the site, whether for seeking ships in the night or enjoying posts' creativity and mishaps over morning coffee. Last year, The Daily Beast checked in with users who were still looking for love (or at least a second impression) in that area of the site as of late 2017.

As Mashable pointed out, the move comes one day after Reddit banned several personal sub-reddits, including areas that enabled transactions around "paid services involving physical sexual contact."

Elsewhere on the internet, meanwhile, video-prone gun enthusiasts are reportedly heading to Pornhub to upload their content as a result of crackdowns on YouTube.

As pressure mounts for tech companies to get a better grip on their platforms, little is certain other than that changes are coming, and it'll be different strokes for different folks across the web, like anywhere else.

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