Craigslist removes notorious personals section

Published: Mar. 25, 2018 at 8:10 AM CDT
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A new federal bill aiming to stop online sex trafficking has led to the shutdown of Craigslist's notorious personals sections.

The service laments a bill passed Wednesday by the U.S. Senate on a 97-2 vote that will hold websites liable for users who misuse online personals. The bill is an attempt to prevent sex trafficking.

A companion bill passed the House in February with wide bipartisan support.

In Iowa, where Interstate 80 runs east and west and Interstate 35 runs north and south, police said they're being extra vigilant about human trafficking.

"The state and federal authorities do a lot of things that we work with and collaborate with to try and prevent human trafficking, especially along the I-80/I-35 corridor," said Sgt. Chad Underwood, with the Urbandale Police Department.

Kellie Markey, who runs a local shelter called Dorothy's House, said she hopes the Craigslist shutdown will curb trafficking.

"Whatever can be done to continue to make Iowa the hardest place to execute this business is all good," she said. "The perpetrators of this crime are very sophisticated in finding their market, and regardless of what Craigslist does or Backpage does, these perpetrators are going to find ways to find their buyers."

Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have come out against the bills, saying they have a chilling effect on free speech.

And human trafficking survivor advocacy group Freedom Network USA said in a letter to legislators that the bill could harm victims and sex workers by pushing the trade underground.

But Markey said, even though she thinks perpetrators will eventually find new ways to victimize, "the harder we make it for people to conduct this crime, the better."

Police said traffickers can also go on sites such as Facebook. If you see anything questionable on social media, police said, call authorities and keep an eye on your children's online behavior.

Craigslist says on its website, "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."

President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.