Tech & The Web

After Passage of New Law, Craigslist Personals Are Out!

If you go to view Craigslist Personals, either to attempt to make a connection or to search for a laugh, you’ll quickly find out they’re no longer there.

Craigslist Personals became a fast casualty of a new law passed by Congress.

As of Friday, the service has removed all of its personals, which included categories like “Strictly Platonic,” which sometimes contained ads that were clearly anything but; “Men Seeking Women,” “Women Seeking Men,” same-gender versions of the same and “Casual Encounters.”

The change was made, the site said, after Congress passed HR1865, nicknamed “FOSTA,” the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.”

Craigslist posted a message this morning in place of its personal ads that stated the purpose of the law was to place criminal and civil liability on websites when users misuse online personals unlawfully.

“Any tool or service can be misused,” the message states. “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.”

Their message ends with a wish of happiness to the spouses, partners and couples who met within those ads over the years.

According to the White House, the bill “empowers Federal, State, and local prosecutors to hold websites accountable for supporting the sale of sex trafficking victims.”

A summary of the bill states the new law “imposes penalties—a fine, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both—on a person who, using a facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, owns, manages, or operates an interactive computer service (or attempts or conspires to do so) to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.”

Operating a website that “promotes or facilitates” that prostitution, even if it’s the prostitute herself (or himself) who posts the ad offering his or her own services, still applies, apparently.

The site always struck me as neutral on classified ads that implied sexual services might be available if the price were right. They certainly didn’t condone such ads, but at the same time, they rarely seemed to police the ads unless someone specifically reported something as inappropriate, at which point the ad would often be removed.

Granted, the number of communities the service serves compared with the number of ads that might be posted on a daily basis across the entire sight probably would make it impractical to police every ad without causing site-crippling delays as each was individually approved.

Craigslist started its classifieds website in 1996, a year after the service began as a private email distribution list. Alexa ranks it as the 15th-most-popular website in the United States based on traffic.

That’s a lot of page views. And a lot of potential ads being posted, whether legitimate or not.

Many of the ads have been somewhat entertaining over the years.

Unfortunately, for others, finding the humor is a bit more difficult.

Still, one wonders if it’s right to punish a website because of the actions of others who blatantly violate the purpose and the guidelines and policies posted by the site.

How you answer that question likely depends upon whether you or a loved one has been a victim of sex trafficking in some way.

What will be really telling is how the change affects the website’s Alexa ranking after people realize the personals section is no longer an option. I expect that could well be a sad commentary on our society.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.