in Free Speech, marketing

Craigslist is Dead

Have you visited Craigslist lately? I know things change, but good grief.

Craigslist is dead, and they did it to themselves.

This article might offend someone, I might come across as an asshole, and I’m sure there are all sorts of things I’m saying that are “wrong”, but these are the things I think about.

A close friend of mine has a small business and used to hire people off of Craigslist. She could place an ad and get 10-20 responses from qualified candidates within a day or two. Recently, she won a big contract and needed to ramp up pretty quick, so she ran an ad on Craigslist looking for project managers with construction experience and concrete crews (we’re in D.C. so people with these skills are available) and didn’t get a single response. Her office manager recommended posting the jobs on Indeed, and they hired someone within 72 hours.

What went wrong at Craigslist?

I’m thinking people have stopped visiting Craigslist because they shut down their personals and therapeutic services sections.

It’s no secret that adult services providers would advertise in these sections.

I think we can all agree that human trafficking is horrible and those that engage in this activity should be hunted down. No one wants these people to be able to operate online.

But what about people that legitimately earn a living, or supplement their income, by providing adult services? Should they be penalized because of FOSTA?

Impact of FOSTA

According to this page on CL, Craigslist removed the personals and therapeutic sections due to the passage of FOSTA.

The foundational objective of FOSTA is aimed at preventing sex trafficking (a very good thing), but as a recent lawsuit notes, it “erroneously conflates online communications relating to sex work with prostitution, and treats prostitution as synonymous with trafficking.”  The law makes websites liable for content that “promotes or facilitates prostitution” with severe penalties for those that violate the terms of FOSTA.

The very real downside is that FOSTA’s reduction of legal protections for websites is having disastrous consequences for legitimate sex workers and massage therapists. Faced with the new potential for litigation, many websites are removing any content that could possibly violate FOSTA. It’s disconnecting people that rely on online advertising from a resource that is critical to their ability to earn an income.

FOSTA is going to force sex workers back into the street, where they face threats from both potential clients and the government. Back in the 80’s, Washington, D.C. police lined up street walkers and marched them across the 14th street bridge into Virginia.

FOSTA is a virtual extension of this same mentality.

The future for adult services

Why can’t we help these people make a living safely as opposed to forcing them into dark alleys where they are exposed to horribly unsafe conditions. Craigslist is dead, and there are very few alternatives.

Prostitution is a high-demand service that is not going to be regulated into the history books. Anyone think that the representatives that voted for the passage of FOSTA have, at a minimum, hired an adult services provider at least once in their lives?

Why is the discussion around legalizing pot and not prostitution?

The Government figured out a way to collect tax off of online gambling and they made it legal, it’s called Daily Fantasy Sports (and I love playing DFS). Some state Governments in the United States figured out a way to tax pot, so they put it on the ballot and the voters made it legal, so we have pharmaceutical grade weed and shops in Colorado, California and more on the way.

Nevada is the only state in which prostitution is legal (as long as you visit a state approved brothel). As of February 2018, there are 21 brothels across eight counties in Nevada. Using the services of independent providers is still illegal throughout Nevada – the Government cant get their cut of the action.

Is There A Way Forward?

There are a lot of sites popping up that claim to be a viable alternative to Craigslist, and by that they mean a place where adult services providers and customers can post to meet each other.

The problem is that a ton of sites have popped up that are hosted outside of the United States. This creates an opportunity for the people that FOSTA was intended to shut down (sex traffickers) to flourish.

Employers have to pay to post ads on Craigslist, I’m assuming this is their way to minimize spam/scam activity on the site. Why can’t they use this same method to vet sex workers? The fact that operating as an independent adult services provider is illegal in the U.S. is a factor, but come on, so is growing pot and online gambling (all of which the Government hasn’t figured out how to tax).

Visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation if you’re interested in reading about what they are doing to protect your free speech online. They are also suing to get invalidate FOSTA as it is currently criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech and, according to experts, actually “hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims”.

Questions (will be updated with answers)

  • Is there more to this that I’m not considering?
  • What is really going on at Craigslist?
  • Is Craigslist working on a way to bring the personals section back?



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