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! On Friday, the adult-ad forum CityVibes disappeared. Reddit said the purge was enforcing its new content policy, which bans "transactions for certain goods and services," including "paid services involving physical sexual contact.
This failure to distinguish between ads for prostitution and any discussion of prostitution is part of what has sex workers and free-speech advocates so worried. Sex worker blogs could be shut down, and they could find their social-media accounts suspended simply for being honest about their work.
This is because the core of FOSTA makes it a federal crime to "promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person," punishable by up to 10 years in prison, plus fines. For promoting the prostitution of five or more people, the penalty is 25 years, and the same if promoting someone's prostitution "contributed to sex trafficking. Sex workers don't have to worry about being punished for posting their own ads, but they could run afoul of the law if working in pairs or helping a colleague place an ad.
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The primary target are websites, apps, messageboards, and other digital publishers, which have deeper pockets. To reach them, Congress had to carve a hole in Section , which has governed the internet for 22 years. It protects web platforms from being sued in civil court or criminally charged by state prosecutors for third-party i.
It doesn't apply for federal crimes. Section says that unless they create the content in whole or part, these platforms shall not be treated as the speaker of such content, and good-faith efforts at content moderation like banning ads that explicitly mention illegal acts or auto-filtering out content that contains prohibited words do not change this.
That's why sites are scrambling right now to prohibit any content that could get them held liable. It's probably too late, or at least would be if legislators get their way. FOSTA "shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred… before, on, or after such date of enactment.
No less than the U. Department of Justice has urged against passing FOSTA, calling it unconstitutional and saying that it would make prosecuting sex traffickers harder. Ron Wyden Wednesday from the Senate floor. Wyden—who co-authored Section —was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul the only Republican. An amendment to FOSTA proposed by Wyden would have clarified that websites can try to filter out illegal content without increasing their liability, but it was overwhelmingly defeated.
Wyden stressed that FOSTA is not a matter of substituting some free-speech rights for a better ability to stop sex trafficking. Rather, it's imposing serious burdens while at best doing nothing for trafficking victims and quite likely making their lives worse.
For one thing, it incentivizes law enforcement to go after third parties rather than stop traffickers or rescue victims. It also takes away an important tool for finding trafficking victims—the open internet.
Online ads have allowed an untold number of victims to be identified and found. What's more, the digital trail of ads, emails, and texts can provide evidence that makes catching and prosecuting the perpetrators easier. Law enforcement loses this when traffickers switch to private, encrypted, or dark web forums. Some days, she couldn't leave the house. 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.
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