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I t was the summer after his sophomore year in college when Luke finally found the nerve to have sex with another man. He requested that his last name not be printed.

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So he went to Craigslist, where he posted a free, anonymous ad that caught the eye of another guy online. For four more years, Luke used the classified site to meet men before coming out and leaving the church in his twenties. The decision by Craigslist to stop hosting personal came as a preemptive move after Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, a sweeping piece of legislation intended to minimize human trafficking and unlawful prostitution in the internet era.

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But critics — who range from free-speech activists to Silicon Valley executives — say it goes too far. And the broader risk of being found to have facilitated prostitution led Craigslist and Reddit, which runs online messaging boards, to shutter sections of their sites.

Nearly 5, cases of sex trafficking in the U. According to one recent study conducted by economists at Baylor University, escort on Craigslist reduced the female homicide rate by Allowing sex workers to advertise their services online kept them off the streets, and also gave them the opportunity to better screen potential clientele. And for other marginalized communities — such as people who are LGBT or simply have unorthodox proclivities that they would be embarrassed to have publicly known — sites like Craigslist also provided an outlet, whether they were searching for platonic endeavors, one-night stands or long-term romantic relationships.

The bill has been widely panned by civil rights groups since it was introduced last April. Many civil liberties advocates say its measures are not merely counterproductive: they deliver an unprecedented blow to the freedom of speech in the digital era.

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Since the mids, Section of a law known as the Communications Decency Act has protected websites from being held responsible for what their users post. It was this law that shielded Back.

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No longer. The bill passed the Senate last Wednesday overwhelmingly, with only two members — Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and staunch libertarian Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — voting against it.

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Impacted communities are starting to take up arms against the new bill. In the meantime, the communities that have relied on these websites worry about the future.

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There are better ways to fight exploitation than causing a free market to shut down. at letters time. Classified on Craigslist website Various.

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