Craigslist, the widely-used classified ads website, has removed its ‘personals’ section, which displays dating and friendship listings, from its U.S. website in response to a new bill against sex trafficking passed by Congress Wednesday.
Under the new bill, individuals who own, manage or operate a website “to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person” can face fines and prison terms of up to 10 years. Penalties can also be imposed on a person who “promotes or facilitates” prostitution of five or more people, or “acts with reckless disregard that such conduct contributes to sex trafficking.”
This means that the owners of websites which allow the posting of classified ads, such as Craigslist, could face charges or prison terms even if third parties misuse the service to promote prostitution.
In a statement posted on its website, Craigslist explained that “any tool or service can be misused” and therefore the company “can’t take such risk” with its ‘personals’ section. It added that it was “regretfully” taking its personal ads offline, but would hopefully “bring them back some day.”
Over the years, Craigslist’s ‘personals’ section has developed something of a cult following in the U.S., spawning Twitter accounts devoted to sourcing the strangest, funniest and most heartwarming posts. One such account, called CraigslistLove, has nearly 60,000 followers.
However, the site has also been used in the past for listings for escorts.