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This time, it's personals: Craigslist dumps lonely-hearts section, blames anti-trafficking laws

Hookup hangout hangs up

Craigslist has axed its personals ad section after US Congress passed an anti-sex-trafficking law.

Bosses at the California-headquartered classified ads board said they will be subject to legal action under the new law if or when the hookup section of the website is used by human traffickers to advertise sex work. They don't want the headache of that, so it's breaking up with lonely hearts and hookers online.

This week, the House of Rep's Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Senate's Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA) were combined, signed off by President Donald Trump, and became law.

In a notice on Friday effectively blaming FOSTA-SESTA for shutting down for its personal ads board, Craigslist stated:

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.

The new law removed an exemption from America's Communications Decency Act that shielded websites and internet service providers from legal action if traffickers used their tech to sell humans online. As a result, websites will now be on the hook if they are found to be hosting ads for people forced into sex work, and such material.

The law was fiercely opposed by digital rights groups that argued it would unfairly punish legitimate sites and force sex workers further underground, where they are more likely to be exploited and put in danger.

Those in favor of the law – which included tech giants – will say this says more about the stuff being carried by Craigslist than anything else.

Those who fought the law bill now have a real-world example to point to, while other popular hookup sites no doubt have to consider their legal exposure under the new law. Tinder had no comment at time of publication.

"Websites are shutting down users' speech because they fear prosecution and litigation as a result of Congress passing SESTA/FOSTA," noted the EFF. "This is what internet censorship looks like." ®

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