Anti-Trafficking Act Kills Craigslist Personals – Thanks, Congress, Just Thanks


Isn’t it wonderful when our rulers prevent entirely legal and enjoyable activity in the name of killing off an extremely rare crime? That’s what they’ve just done with their Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, they’ve killed off the odd art of the personals ad at places like Craigslist. All in the name, as the law implies of stopping sex trafficking, something which barely exists in the real world.

Yup, a near non-existent problem leads to killing off places where consenting adults can go ask “Anyone want to have sex with me?” So much for that freedom consenting adults are supposed to have then, eh?

Craigslist is shutting down its personals section.
The service announced on Friday it will no longer operate the portion of its website that allows individuals to seek encounters with strangers.

The move comes two days after the Senate approved of bipartisan legislation called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.

The rough enough background, the one that enables us to understand what is going on, is that internet sites aren’t responsible for what happens with content generated by users. In this they’re being treated like the telephone company – which isn’t responsible for crimes committed by people talking to each other on the phone. The people who do the wire fraud, to use a slightly different example, can be and are prosecuted, but not the people who own the wires.

This is obviously sensible as in a society as litigious as America there would be no phone companies if this weren’t true. Congress, in the infinite wisdom of our assembled Solons, decided that this safe harbour wouldn’t exist if the crime was sex trafficking. So, any ad space which could conceivably be used as a cover for such trafficking is going to be closing down. As Craigslist has said:

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!

The specific crime we’re being protected from here is sex trafficking. Something which really doesn’t exist above the tiniest statistical blip. I mean there are recorded cases of it but they’re very few and far between. Near all the talk we hear of it, the reporting and the stories, is of something very different indeed. Something that even might be a crime still, dependent upon the jurisdiction, but it’s not sex trafficking.

The true definition here is the forcing into sexual slavery of men or women. The setting them up for repeated rape so that those doing the forcing can charge money. There is also a strong implication of moving people around so that this repeated rape, sexual slavery, can take place.

This is rare, vanishingly rare. For example, there was a concerted effort by the British police to investigate this. Every police force in the country spent 6 months combing the known sex trade looking for incidences. At the end of this not one single person was prosecuted. On the simple grounds that not one single person could be found who was, convincingly, even maybe guilty of sex trafficking. Sure, maybe the US is different but not that different.

There is also though that other and incorrect meaning of sex trafficking. Which is the moving around of consenting adults who then sell sex. Consenting note, people who agree to do this. It wouldn’t be a great surprise to find that if 30,000 people turn up to a race meeting that demand for sexual services is going to rise a little above background levels in that area. Equally unsurprising would be that some who sell sexual services arrive in order to do so to that waiting crowd. This other, incorrect, definition of sex trafficking includes this. Adults, voluntarily, moving to where they can sell the sex they’re willing enough to sell voluntarily.

Perhaps we’d not wish to partake even in this, perhaps we frown on it, possibly it’s immoral and it’s still illegal in many places. But it is different from sex trafficking and that repeated rape, isn’t it? But the general coverage of the area insists that this second and common form is the same as the first. And thus, given how appalling that first form is, we’d better be prepared to do anything to stamp out the second.

Including, as Congress just has done, kill off the personals pages.

Craigslist eliminated its personal ads Friday after Congress passed a bill that would penalize websites that promote sex trafficking and prostitution, even if the content is posted by a third party.

Maybe prostitution is bad, immoral and possibly illegal too but we should be killing off the personals sections to get at it? Isn’t that a marvellous trade off of freedom for security?

Or as we might put it, what the hell are those bozos in Congress doing?