RIP Chicago Craigslist Personals.
They’re a victim of the Senate’s overwhelming 97-2 vote on Thursday to pass the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. The bill makes a change to a key part of the Communications Decency Act that makes it easier for victims of sex trafficking and prosecutors to take legal action against companies that fail to keep exploitative content off their websites.
Note the irony: Congress refuses to make gun companies or retailers liable for the shooting deaths of its users, but it has made websites liable for hosting sex trafficking content created by third parties (its users).
Advocates of free speech and a free Internet say that the bill, if signed into law—and President Trump is expected to sign it—will cause a chilling effect that hurts consenting sex workers who use the Web or—as is the case with Craigslist—just two strangers looking for a date.
Craigslist preemptively reacted by taking down its personals on Friday. When you go to the site now, it sends you to a message that says:
US Congress just passed HR 1865, “FOSTA”, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.
Any tool or service can be misused. 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.
It’s not as if the website used to desperately seek out a “FWB” (that’s friends with benefits) in the Casual Encounters section or a Missed Connection with that attractive person you eyed on the Blue Line was some kind of utopian paradise of human relationships. Still, it’s a little sad to know that it’s no longer an option.
There was a brief era in which if you wanted to meet a random stranger for friendship, love, or sex—and let’s face it, there was a lot of sex—you’d go to Chicago Craigslist’s Personals section. Its usage peaked about a decade ago, when it bridged the gap between the clunky pay-for-play print personal ads era of the 90s and early 2000s (like the ones in the Reader, remember?) and the effortless swipe-a-thons of Tinder, Grindr, Bumble or whatever apps the kids are staring at on their phones all day.
The ads were like the Wild West of dating—full of spammers, weirdos trying to collect photos of strangers, and horny jerks eager to e-mail you dick pics—but they were often incredibly entertaining reading. The Missed Connections section was especially good browsing material—many posts read like personal diary entries full of internal psychodrama or the plots of Woody Allen films.
You can still read some of the final ads if you do a Google search for “Craigslist Missed Connections,” and it’s a wistful reminder of what the Internet was like pre-Zuckerberg—weird, awkward, hilarious. Here’s a random sampling of posts from the past 24 hours:
- Handsome, swarthy buff guy in steam early a.m. – m4m (XSport)
- Beautiful curly red haired lady searching for pasta (Southport Jewel) (“I was in the pasta aisle at the Jewel on Southport when I turned, saw you, and was immediately struck by how gorgeous you are.”)
- Pilsen college girl? You gave me a golden shower – Older WM – m4w (“I met you at your place while your roommates were out, one Sunday afternoon, a few weeks ago. You gave me a golden shower, and if you are up for it, I would love another.”)
- Cute McDonald’s manager – m4w
- girl at dunkin donuts (“I was at dunkin donuts in Bloomingdale a couple months ago. I was wearing skin tight compression pants because I was going to the gym. You were checking out my bulge.i wanted to talk to you. I’m very fit.”)
- Tresure island in gold coast. – m4w (“We were stuck behind a woman with days worth of produce and coupons that were just not working. You were very cute and had what looked the makings of a tasty salad.”)