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! Why would an anti-sex trafficking bill force a beloved community website to ban all posts about dating? Blame it on legislators who don't really understand sex work or the internet.
In the weeks since the House almost unanimously passed its version of the bill, sex workers and online free speech advocates warned that the legislation, despite its good intentions, would do more harm than good.
For independent sex workers — those who are not being trafficked but freely choose to perform sex work — the legislation threatened to shut down a crucial means of vetting clients and keeping themselves safe, as Emma Roller explained in Splinter last week. The internet has been an incredible harm reduction tool for sex workers and, many times, victims of human trafficking.
Sex workers can perform background checks, looking up clients' personal information and history before meeting with them for the first time. They can use "bad dates lists" hosted online — and updated by fellow sex workers — to weed out potentially dangerous clients. And they can also use social media to connect with fellow sex workers and sex work organizations, sharing resources to keep each other safe.
Research shows sex workers are safer when they're able to screen their clients online before meeting with them. A study from researchers at Baylor University and West Virginia University estimated that Craigslist's "erotic services" section "reduced female homicide rates by as much as By being vague about what it means to "promote and facilitate prostitution," SESTA-FOSTA will potentially outlaw the channels that sex workers use to keep themselves safe from violence — pretty ironic for an anti-trafficking bill.
The law, called Section , allows websites to host user-generated posts without being liable for the content of those posts. It's what lets sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and any news site with a comments section to operate and create spaces for people to speak freely.
By holding websites accountable for certain types of user-generated speech, Congress is encouraging platforms to implement censorship tools that will almost certainly end up shutting down some protected speech as collateral damage. The digital civil liberties organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains how this censorship will work:.
It's easy to see the impact that this ramp-up in liability will have on online speech: What forms that erasure takes will vary from platform to platform.
For some, it will mean increasingly restrictive terms of service — banning sexual content, for example, or advertisements for legal escort services. For others, it will mean over-reliance on automated filters to delete borderline posts.
No matter what methods platforms use to mitigate their risk, one thing is certain: The Internet will become a less inclusive place, something that hurts all of us.
She tried taking her own life. An Army veteran living with disability, she could not get this surgical care from her usual provider, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which does not pay for or perform gender transition-related surgeries. Stark calls Wisconsin home but mostly lives out of a suitcase, maintaining a busy schedule as an escort, adult film performer, photographer and phone sex operator.
But now, her career is coming to an abrupt end after a bill passed by Congress in March. Senate approves anti-sex-trafficking bill. I just call it the end of my career, essentially," she said. The bill, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act , prompted the online bulletin board Craigslist to shut down its personal ads two days after its passage.
The bill was directed against sex trafficking, not the volitional career in sex work to which Stark credits her own survival. Craigslist is an online classifieds site, divided by city or geographic area, through which users advertise a range of goods, services, jobs and housing. Now awaiting the president's signature, the bill paves the way for sex trafficking survivors to hold websites accountable for "knowingly" facilitating their abuse. The legislation chips away at part of a act that gave a broad layer of immunity to online companies, such as Facebook or Twitter, from being held liable for what their users post.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. Though the bill aims to crack down on sex trafficking and protect survivors, critics say it threatens the lives and livelihoods of sex workers who choose to work in the profession by encouraging websites like Craigslist to censor their content -- pushing some sex workers back out to the street and removing their tools for finding and screening clients. Some sex workers are already losing their housing as a direct result of forums like Craigslist personals going dark, according to Christa B.
Daring, board president of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Many pay rent week-to-week and struggle to feed themselves and their children, they said. Craigslist was the first site Stark used to transition away from the street, where she relied on her military training to make "snap judgments" to stay out of harm's way, dodge potentially dangerous clients and avoid getting arrested -- again.
Even with the advantage of her military training, however, "most often, physical appearance and demeanor really don't tell you a whole lot," she said. Many sex workers run background checks on clients, communicate through online forums and check "bad date lists," which sex workers create to warn others about hostile clients.
Stark also has a mandatory hour waiting period before she agrees to meet clients, giving her time to check for criminal records and other warning signs. She learned ways to stay safe and grow her business from other sex workers online, some of whom keep blogs. We can mentor each other. We can support each other. We can screen our clients," said Akynos.
Bolstering these concerns about sex worker safety is a recent research paper -- still under peer review -- that suggests Craigslist's "erotic" services section may be linked to a drop in the female homicide rate. Prostitutes speak out against Senate health bill. I don't think Waco had one. But Craigslist didn't launch this section in every city at the same time. Cunningham's team found that cities where Craigslist launched the section for erotic services reduced their female homicide rate by up to However, it is not possible to say what portion of those homicide victims were sex workers, Cunningham said, nor is it possible to prove that Craigslist was directly responsible for the dip.
This reduction wasn't seen for other types of homicides Cunningham analyzed. The research gives quantitative insight into what is likely to happen in the wake of the new bill, he said. Some of them go back to working for a pimp.
Some of them, maybe they advertise on the dark web. Limited information exists on the number of sex workers in the United States, including illegal acts of prostitution. Many definitions of sex work include a broader variety of services beyond prostitution, such as "erotic performances. Akynos expects that black sex workers will be some of the hardest hit by the anti-trafficking legislation.
She recently founded a group called the Black Sex Worker Collective to "help facilitate sex workers who may be looking to exit the business, as well as support those that are in the business. We're already criminalized in so many more ways than white people are, period," said Akynos, who specified that she was not talking about sex work alone.
What is going to happen to us as a whole? The bill's supporters, including 97 senators who voted for the legislation, say it will give law enforcement tools in the fight against sex trafficking and enable survivors and their families to seek justice in the court system. The bill followed a two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking on the classified ads site Backpage.. Sex trafficking victim speaks. Here's everything you need to know in order to buy and care for such a fine machine. For many sex workers, however, "there is absolutely no certainty in anything that's going on right now," Stark said. Now the dapper Nirav Modi is in the spotlight. See all of the best photos of the week in these slideshows. We need a free, easy to use, private way of connecting.