FOSTA "shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred… before, on, or after such date of enactment. No less than the U. Department of Justice has urged against passing FOSTA, calling it unconstitutional and saying that it would make prosecuting sex traffickers harder. Ron Wyden Wednesday from the Senate floor. Wyden—who co-authored Section —was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul the only Republican.
An amendment to FOSTA proposed by Wyden would have clarified that websites can try to filter out illegal content without increasing their liability, but it was overwhelmingly defeated. Wyden stressed that FOSTA is not a matter of substituting some free-speech rights for a better ability to stop sex trafficking.
Rather, it's imposing serious burdens while at best doing nothing for trafficking victims and quite likely making their lives worse. For one thing, it incentivizes law enforcement to go after third parties rather than stop traffickers or rescue victims.
It also takes away an important tool for finding trafficking victims—the open internet. Online ads have allowed an untold number of victims to be identified and found. What's more, the digital trail of ads, emails, and texts can provide evidence that makes catching and prosecuting the perpetrators easier. Law enforcement loses this when traffickers switch to private, encrypted, or dark web forums. Many sex-trafficking survivors and victims groups vocally opposed FOSTA, saying it fails to address the things they really need like housing and job assistance and will make saving future victims harder.
Plus, even those being forced or coerced into prostitution benefit from things like screening out violent clients and not having to walk the streets. The bottom line is that FOSTA "is not going to prevent sex trafficking [and] it's not going to stop young people from becoming victims," Wyden said. What it will do is create "an enormous chilling effect on speech in America," as sites move to squelch anything remotely related to a liability and "powerful political" forces weaponize it against minority voices.
And it goes beyond speech related to sex. For instance, Reddit's sex-work subreddit bans were accompanied by bans of forums for gun talk and trading gaming logins, among others.
While Reddit would still have Section protection should any illegal conduct arise from these forums, it's hard to say how long that will last now that's Congress has decided to start making exceptions. After all, how can we say that Craigslist should be prosecuted if its ads broker prostitution but not a gun sale that leads to the next school shooting? How can we say that social media is criminally liable if a "john" meets a year-old girl there, but not if two terrorists hook up and hatch out plans through their DMs?
Or what about the next time hackers post illegally obtained state secrets or nudes on some remote corner of some social forum?
Sex trafficking is horrific. But so are a lot of other crimes. And under FOSTA, our law effectively says that both sex trafficking and paid sex between two consenting adults are more grave offenses that rape, child molestation, mass murder, or anything else. What kind of logic is that? The answer to this conundrum is that the creators of Section were onto something. Because once we decide something like prostitution is so bad that it overrides it, what won't warrant an exception? And once we start treating technology as the guilty party in any badness it brokers, we will wind up with tech overlords terrified to let us speak about anything controversial at all.
Cheat Sheet A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know and nothing you don't. In fact, I was inspired to write this article when a friend told me many of her female friends had owned up to using it.
Over the next couple of days, I actually received a lot of posts from women. Or at least, they said they were women. To be honest, I doubted the veracity of the claims.
It didn't take long to realize that almost all the replies I received were scams. The situation is so severe on Craigslist Casual Encounters that posts by real women who are actually seeking hook-ups are often flagged for removal at the slightest cause for suspicion. The most common scams are "safe dating" websites. An alleged woman will write a man saying she's interested, but that because of the Craigslist-based serial killers and rapists in the news, she needs some extra assurance that it's safe.
If you follow the link she provides, the website asks you for your credit card number — y'know, so it can do a background check to make sure you're not a criminal. One individual tried to get me to buy him or her virtual currency in online games like MapleStory before agreeing to hand over contact information. Yeah, right — moving on! What little luck I'd had so far. The week was half over and I hadn't had a single bite. I decided I would have to take the initiative, so in addition to posting my own ads, I started responding to every ad from any woman who seemed at all interesting.
I cast a wide net in my searches, looking up posts by straight or bisexual women between the ages of 18 and 35 who lived anywhere in Chicagoland — a large metropolitan area that's home to close to five million females. Most of the women wanted something very specific they couldn't find in their normal lives: Someone to help play out a particular fantasy, someone vastly older than them or someone of another race.
Very few of the women who were advertising seemed to be looking for anything I would consider a "normal encounter. I typically wrote two or three paragraph replies and matched the tone of their own messages, then attached a couple of tasteful photos of myself. I didn't get a single reply from an actual prospect this way. It turned out that most of the ads were fakes from scammers, and quite a few fell into another category all together. Prostitution is what made Craigslist controversial.
There's technically another section for that — "Adult Services," formerly "Erotic Services" — but that's not the only place you'll find practitioners of the world's oldest profession. The prostitutes of Craigslist speak in code, but it's not a difficult one to learn. They advertise "French lessons" — an odd thing to advertise under "Casual Encounters," don't you think? Well, it's obviously a euphemism for something else. Many of the ads that weren't from scammers were from prostitutes. The ads are so obvious that it's surprising the euphemisms are effective in fending off law enforcement.
Then again, maybe they are law enforcement. Amidst all those failures, I had one near-success. A woman wrote in response to my sweet "cuddling first" ad saying she was in town for only a couple of months, and that she was frustrated she couldn't find a relationship. When she sent her pictures, she looked plain but attractive.
We exchanged a couple of e-mails over the course of two hours, tossing back and forth lists of interests and the like. She made it clear that she wanted to meet up, and while she talked about starting slow, it was clear that it would indeed be a casual encounter. But when I suggested a time to meet — the last message from me before I would reveal myself and back out — there was no reply.
At least, not yet. The next day, she e-mailed me saying she was deeply apologetic and that she'd fallen asleep. She said she'd like to meet up sometime. So yes, there are women on Craigslist. Well, at least one! You've probably guessed by now that the experiences for heterosexual men and women on Craigslist's casual encounters are quite different.
I observed that for every ad a woman posts, there are at least 20 from men. If nothing else, that imbalance ought to alter the experience. To get the female perspective, I did two things: I posted a fake ad as a woman to see what kinds of responses I would get, and I interviewed two women who have had success hooking up on casual encounters in the past.
As for potential suitors, I asked only that they supply a photo and "be attractive and not creepy. There was a five minute delay before my ad appeared, then I started receiving about one response per minute. Most of them were careful to say "I don't do this often. Some sent pictures of themselves naked along with the word "Hi. There were a lot of expressions of sympathy over my fake breakup. I was hearing from men of all types, and it seemed I had my pick of the litter.
After about thirty minutes, though, my post was flagged for removal. I thought I'd made it look legit, but as we learned earlier, folks have good reason to be hawkish about scammers.
After the end of my test run with Craigslist casual encounters, I decided to get more insight into the female experience with the site by interviewing two women who said they had successes meeting up with men on Casual Encounters.
Their problem was the opposite of mine. They had too many options to pick from, but they both dealt with the numerous choices in the same way. Both women ultimately responded to men who they felt put effort into writing long, personal messages as opposed to quick notes....