In all the gun hubub, something that we didn’t get around to talking about on Otters Talking Politics is Craigslist getting rid of its personals page. For those of you who have never been to the Personals Page of Craigslist, it is basically a place where robots, VERY sad & lonely people, and really dirty people come together to solicit, coordinate, and ultimately consent to doing adult things. What the ads are broadcasting often give people a myriad of reactions, but I say to each his own. That brings us to the issue behind Craigslist removing their personals section. Craigslist didn’t remove its personals section because its a private company and it can choose to platform or de-platform whoever it wants to, but rather because of a new federal bill that has passed the House and Senate.
This bill, HR 1865, has been given the appearingly moral acronym FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act). Sex Trafficking is a terrible action in which people are abducted, beaten, often raped, and forced into sex slavery. Obviously sex trafficking is a bad thing and of course we should work to fight sex trafficking whenever it occurs. However, this bill does not help this effort. In fact, I’m going to argue that it does the exact opposite AND hurts people not privy to the immoral action of sex trafficking.
First, what does fosta do?
What FOSTA does is update Communications Decency Act Section 230 which basically protects the hosting company from any repercussions due to their users doing something illegal. In the case of Craigslist, this section change means that if a person were to put up an advertisement soliciting sex for money with a sex-trafficked woman then Craigslist could be held responsible for being a part of this sex trafficking. Obviously, weighing the benefits of having a personals page (connecting lonely people searching for “love”) with the costs (being fined or up to 10 years in jail) places like Craigslist and backpage.com have decided to end sections that are vulnerable to this type of service.
This sounds like a victory for Justice and good legislation prevailing over the evil of sex trafficking, right? Wrong. All FOSTA has done is driven sex traffickers into hiding at the expense of consenting adults.
WHat is Fosta really doing?
What FOSTA has done is best described through the idea of a massage parlour. Massage parlours deal with sex trafficking except that they are in a physical location, a building. The great thing about a building is that it allows law enforcement to know where exactly to look for sex trafficked masseuses. Boom. They kick in the door (after getting the proper warrant of course), round up the abused women, catch the predators, arrest the “Jons” and justice is served. What happens when government decides to ban all massage places? Well, not only will the places where you can actually purchase massage therapy close down, but also all those victims in bad massage places will be taken to other hiding places. They’re now hidden in back rooms of clothing stores, basements of restaurants, taken to back alleys, etc. Instead of the police knowing that they’re more than likely to find these women at one type of location, they now have to guess from a myriad of places of where the sex slaves could possibly be. You haven’t gotten rid of the issue of sex trafficking you’ve displaced it.
So now instead of Mr. Agent going to Craigslist, scanning the personals for what looks like prostitution, setting up a sting, and catching the bad people involved. He’s now going to have to head to the deep web, go through layers of encryptions, interact with people more likely to realize he is an agent, all to hopefully get lucky that this sex worker he is pursuing actually is being sex trafficked. It should be noted here that the authorities are already doing this type of work as well as scanning the Craigslist personal page. So ultimately by pushing the stupid criminals out of their easy posting spot you have made them smarter and harder to catch.
What’s a better solution? Well if your goal is to find those being sex trafficked why not keep the building (Craigslist) open and sort out the sex workers. Work with Craigslist or Backpage to make sure those sex workers are engaging in this business of their own free will. Have them registered to the website with an Uber/Facebook-esque profile. Now the authorities have knowledge of where the sex workers are and can more easily find them. The only issue with this solution is then you’d have to legalize consenting prostitution, but that’s an issue for another article.
This bill has already been passed and is heading to Pres. Trump’s desk probably sometime next week. If anything here has made you agree that this bill is not the proper way to stop sex trafficking tell Pres. Trump to veto this bill. Email him through this link or, heck, just Tweet at him. We all know he’s on there.