FOSTA-SESTA Explained: What Happened To Craigslist Personals

Craigslist was removed because of two laws passed in April 2018, the FOSTA-SESTA package.

FOSTA – Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act

SESTA – Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act

Before FOSTA-SESTA, personals websites weren’t held responsible for user-generated content.   If someone posted something illegal like sex trafficking ads, the user was guilty, not the website.  This protection was given by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Critics argued that this created a loophole for sites like craigslist and backpage, where people could post ads for illegal sex without the sites getting in trouble.

FOSTA-SESTA amended section 230 and made all sites responsible for user-generated content related to sex work.  So now any new websites that allow hookups and sex need to make sure they are FOSTA-SESTA compliant.

How does a site become complient?

  • It must keep user’s information so that there are no anonymous users, and anyone performing illegal activities can be identified.  This includes phone, address, first and last name.   Of course, there’s nothing stopping people from making a fake name, so this again hurts sex workers more than it helps stop trafficking.
  • Ads must be approved by a team of live people.  To prevent people from posting sex trafficking ads, all posts for hookups need to be approved and checked to make sure that they don’t contain terms that indicate the ad is for underage sex.

For craigslist personals to be compliant with both of the new regulations, they would have needed to hire thousands of people to monitor the ads for illegal ones, not to mention add phone verification and user accounts, completely changing the way craigslist works.  Instead, they decided the most cost-effective and simple solution was to shut down personals, rather than fight the law.

Sex workers protest craigslist personals being taken down

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