CraigsList shuts down Personals Section in response to Congressional Bill   Leave a comment

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I can confirm only the U.S. CraigsList sites are impacted. The CraigsList sites outside the U.S. are mostly uneffected. The only change is the Missed Connections and Rant & Rave categories were moved to the Community section. Those who access one of the U.S. CraigsList sites will see the following message:

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!

Click here for more info courtesy of CNN.

The bill, which was actually passed two days ago and will be signed into law by #45 amends the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The Act, which protects websites and online services from being liable for user-generated content will add an exception and that’s what the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (HR 1865) does. It removes a portion of the protection in the case of sex trafficking, sexual harassment and rape by allowing victims to sue websites.

What does that mean, you might ask?

CraigsList just shut down their Personals section because they don’t want to be sued. For those who don’t know, by design CraigsList is a site for arranging meetups with complete strangers. I forgot to say this before but ONLY the U.S. CraigsList sites were impacted. The Personals Sections in Canada and elsewhere are still active. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act only effects CraigsList directly and THAT’S why they removed their Personals section in the U.S.

Why?

Because unlike other sites that do similar things, there are no dedicated staff who moderate what’s posted. The site relies on its flawed Flagging system and Community Policing to moderate the site. The obvious problem is it assumes people both take the time to flag ads and know what types of ads to flag as well. CraigsList was basically a haven for criminal elements due to the lack of direct oversight.

The site has been around for 20 years and fell into notariety 10 years ago because of the CraigsList Killer Incidents. The incidents, which gained international headlines permanently destroyed the site’s repuation. To make matters worse, botters and scammers moved in and took over the Personals section a few years ago. Nevermind there have been instances in which crimes were committed using CraigsList. Not that many but they have happened.

What does this mean for the vast majority who didn’t misuse the site? I see one of three things happening:

  1. Internet Forums make a comeback: Social Media killed the model but they are still around. One can still make a free message board through InvisionFree on that note.
  2. Facebook groups: Most who use CraigsList are also on Facebook. It would then make sense for folks to migrate there and set up Facebook groups for the same purpose.
  3. Mobile Apps: Goes without saying.

It is unfortunate for those who didn’t misuse the site but personally, I think this was a long time coming because of the scammers and criminal elements who frequent CraigsList alone. Many people are already looking to CraigsList Personals in other countries so…yeah. Will CraigsList Personals in the U.S. ever come back? Yes, but I think it should be a separate website entirely AND should have moderation.

It is true that some tech companies voiced concerns over the bill but the only site that is really effected by it is CraigsList. You saw what they did in response to it. This was 100% avoidable but they stupidly used the CDA as a shield for too long and brought this on themselves. It’s Lose-Lose for CraigsList now as any other sites that are effected can just blame CraigsList and would be right to do so, too. This bill WAS passed specifically FOR CraigsList so…yeah.

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