The service announced on Friday it will no longer operate the portion of its website that allows individuals to seek encounters with strangers.
The move comes two days after the Senate approved of bipartisan legislation called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
The legislation, now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, would create an exception to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which would pave the way for victims of sex trafficking to sue websites that facilitate their abuse.
The House version already passed with overwhelming support and received an endorsement from the White House.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a legal protection that gives a broad layer of immunity to online companies from being held liable for user-generated content.
Companies are expected to act in good faith to protect users from “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” content. Critics argue it can, and has, be used as a shield that protects companies from being held liable.
However, tech industry associations and internet rights advocates are concerned about the free speech implications of the legislation. In August 2017, 10 tech trade groups — including the Internet Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau — coauthored a letter condemning the Senate bill and said it would have a “chilling effect” on companies.
“Platforms will err on the side of extreme caution in removing content uploaded by their users, while cutting back on proactive prevention measures,” the groups warned in the letter.
“Any tool or service can be misused,” Craigslist said in a statement on its website. “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.”
The personals section, which is still visible on the Craigslist homepage, now redirects users to the announcement about the shutdown.