STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A popular section of Craigslist which commonly facilitates human trafficking is now shut down. Craigslist leaders say the measure is in response to a recently passed bill which aims to fight online sex trafficking.
U.S. Congress just passed ‘FOSTA’, short for Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. Under the bill, websites themselves would be held criminally and civilly accountable when people misuse them.
In the ‘personals’ section of Craigslist you can find casual encounters, women seeking women, women seeking men, and more.
Now when you click on one of those links, a message comes up. It says since ‘FOSTA’ has been passed, Craigslist isn’t taking any chances and has removed the entire ‘personals’ section.
“Webpages like Backpage or Craigslist sort of funneled that type of activity into a single location that was easy for us to track,” says Detective Brian Webbe, Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
Detectives with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office used the ‘personals’ section to set up prostitution stings and bust human trafficking.
They say the shut down is a good thing, but it will hinder investigations. “It sort of removes a marketplace that we can investigate,” Webbe adds.
Detective Brian Webbe says this won’t stop online sex trafficking. It will simply push the activity to other locations. He explains, “which might make it a little more difficult for us to track.”
He believes other websites will follow Craigslist’s lead.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of them start to protect their own assets by limiting any type of personal ads or related activity on their sites,” Webbe says.
Despite the road block, investigators say this won’t stop their efforts.
“People are still going to engage in this activity, and we’re going to continue to locate and apprehend them,” Webbe adds.
Next, the ‘FOSTA’ bill will head to President Trump’s desk for a final signature.
As for Craigslists’ ‘personals’ section, website leaders say they hope to one day bring it back.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS A VICTIM OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888.