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I certainly have. But a seedier side of the classifieds ad site has made headlines in recent weeks.

Alongside posts for free kittens and lawn services are countless solicitations for casual sex and sex work. Or at least there were until March.

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On April 11, President Trump ed those bills into law, with catastrophic impacts for personal ad websites and internet civil liberties. Specifically, the bills were deed to bring down Back.

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The logic goes like this: If law enforcement prosecutes web service providers for knowingly allowing prostitution, then sites like Back and Craigslist will surveil their own platforms more deliberately, and fewer traffickers will pimp out children on the internet. In order to enforce sex trafficking ability standards, Congress makes an exception to the longstanding protections for website operators found in section of the U. Communications Decency Act. Historically, websites have not been held responsible for the content posted by their users. But Facebook would not likely be the party at fault.

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This has been a crucial variable in the business formulas for social media, online porn, blogging, and — yes — personal ad sites. It stifles free speech.

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It will bubble up in less-visible corners of the internet, such as the dark web, where cryptocurrencies are traded for sex and drugs. It just moves it further underground. Sex workers have long used the internet to screen their clients.

Adult personal ad sites have provided a digital safety net for the often at-risk people who do sex work. And sex workers can operate independently online, sidestepping predatory pimps.

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Without internet services, sex workers may be forced into back alleys and adult clubs, compromising their ability to choose non-violent, STI-free and HIV-negative clients. The new law fails to acknowledge its harm to already-marginalized groups. While completing my Ph. Most of those posts were made by everyday folks hoping to explore their sexual fantasies.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, there were gay men and transgender women, but also LGBTQ young adults, polyamorous and BDSM kink communities, older adults, and ordinary Joes seeking sexual encounters and conversation partners. Although sex workers do use personal ad sites to identify and screen clients, the majority of people on Craigslist are curious adults exploring their sexualities.

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Law enforcement and the mainstream press have sensationalized online sex forums as the red light districts of the internet. Until last month, Craigslist had hosted online posts for romantic, sexual, casual and platonic relationships for nearly two decades.

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Craigslist launched in as a San Francisco-area events listserv and went national in Craigslist and Back have weathered multiple crusades against sex trafficking and sex work. InCraigslist bowed under national law enforcement pressure and removed its Erotic Services and Adult Services forums from the site.

And starting insex trafficking lawsuits pelted both websites. Back then, Craigslist was a symbol of the libertarian internet.

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The sex forums went live again after self-surveillance measures were put in place to prevent trafficking. Dozens of websites have removed their personal ad sections as a form of self-preservation.

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It sets a precedent for content-specific digital censorship and encourages self-surveillance among sexual outgroups. It should be a major concern for proponents of the First Amendment.

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Chelsea Reynolds is an assistant professor of communications at Cal State Fullerton, where she teaches courses in journalism and digital media. Her research focuses on mass-mediated stigma against sexual minority communities. The author wishes to thank Christopher R. Terry, University of Minnesota assistant professor, for his feedback on this column.

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By Contributing Writer. Photo courtesy of Cal State Fullerton But a seedier side of the classifieds ad site has made headlines in recent weeks. More in Local News. ZIP: 02841 02840

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