Pounced.org shuts down – international fans affected by American politics.
by Patch O'Furr
The site was key to starting a convention in Sweden.
Pounced.org, launched in March 2003, was a free, location-based service to help furries meet other furries. This long-time staple of fandom served them anywhere they exist. According to Wikifur, over 71,000 users and 13,000 personal ads were listed in 2016.
Ethan Staghorn, a Swedish furry, told me:
Pounced was key in making @NordicFuzzCon happen, and in growing the local fandom. Through Pounced, I found my very first local fandom friend, @MrJoelFox. A few years later, we decided to advertise a local furmeet since we wanted to make more local friends. About eight people showed up, among them @new_einstein and @traxswe, who both were attending their first furmeet. They started talking (and spoke to me) about doing a convention, which became the first NordicFuzzCon a little over a year later. They were the first two chairmen. NFC really did wonders for the local community, too. But I doubt any of this would have happened if I hadn’t seen Joel advertise on Pounced. He’s the only person I ever contacted through the site. I don’t really get personal ads, but his ad was calling out to me “this person is in your town and must be studying the same thing as you; you have to contact them!” @new_einstein knows the exact dates of many of these occurrences, since he recently did some digging for a wonderful panel he hosted at NordicFuzzCon about the history of NFC.
The site feared legal liability under a controversial new law – Fandom can’t just say no to politics.
On March 23, 2018, Pounced closed in fear of FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) – U.S. Congressional bill H.R.1865. I read the text to find out what the fear is. Previously, section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 provided legal protection to websites for content they publish that was created by others. Now, websites are criminally responsible for anything that may “facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”
Pounced posted an explanation when this became Furry News:
FOSTA “makes sites operated by small organizations like pounced.org much riskier to operate. FOSTA essentially says that if we facilitate the prostitution of another person we’re liable. If you read FOSTA carefully the bill says “or facilitate” – the problem is that “or facilitate” is ill-defined.”
I’m not a lawyer, but this seems as broad as a violation if a site user offers to sleep with someone else for the cost of a hotel room (creative con travel).
To go farther, sex work isn’t illegal everywhere, it exists everywhere, and can’t be called a universally bad thing. It may be argued as a healthy consenting adult issue, like decriminalizing homosexual sex or marijuana use where nobody gets hurt. The bill isn’t meant to stop selling sex where it’s legal, but alarmingly, it combines “sex work” and “trafficking victims” as one thing. That’s not true, as more than a few furries know, including ones using Twitter AD accounts or Fetlife groups who may even occasionally do sex work at cons. (I’m not calling it common, I’m calling it a consenting adult issue. Trafficking themselves?)
People sell sex at furry conventions. Even in cases where it isn’t sold, furries use the Internet to plan and coordinate sexual encounters at furry conventions, and since attending a convention costs money, it could be interpreted that way legally. Do you see the problem that puts websites in? The fact no actual trafficking is involved doesn’t matter; any facilitation of sex work can already get you in trouble for “trafficking”, like driving your consenting wife to a motel. – (Equivamp on Flayrah)
It’s much bigger than that too – besides a website suffering for one narrow use, all users are affected. Nobody wants trafficking abuse, but the law is comparable to using a bazooka to kill a mosquito – plus anti-free-speech, anti-business, and intrusively paternal.
“This is like a perfect example of ‘chilling effect’ by making it impossible for people to proceed with protected speech.” – Crissa Kentavr
The collateral damage to fandom started in mainstream culture when Craigslist shut down their personals section. That includes ditching all platonic friend ads and “Missed Connections” (I placed one of those ads earlier this month to reconnect about art with someone met at a furry party.) Craigslist is huge, and as the Pounced statement elaborates, the smaller the organization is, the worse the liability may be. When one small community is thrown under the bus, the reverberations can be international.
- Gizmodo: Craigslist Is Shutting Down Its Personals Section
- Electronic Frontier Foundation: How Congress Censored the Internet
- Engadget: How ‘sex trafficking’ just opened the censorship floodgates
Ya alot of furries complain about politics being discussed, but it is really important to discuss for the sake of the community as a whole and it's long term life. This bill needs to be shut down by the supreme court— 清流IIDX (@SeiryuIIDX) March 24, 2018
Every Sex Worker I Know: "Here are a dozen articles about how SESTA/FOSTA will kill us, please call your Senators"— me tie dough-ty *Kriss_Lowrance (@kriss_lowrance) March 23, 2018
Craigslist: We're shutting down personals because of FOSTA
Civilians: "OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING NO ONE WARNED US"
Pounced users speak out:
This SUCKS. I met my husband on Pounced ;-; – @TimidClef
Jesus, this sucks. Pounced is the reason i have my boyfriend, and several really good friends. – Ulrick
Met some of my first fur friends after moving away from my hometown through Pounced. – @BigBlueRudder
I met my fiancé on pounced, we’ve been together almost seven years and are getting married this summer. Shame to see it go. – @Asunyra
My partner and I met on pounced and our first conversations were still in my inbox after almost 3 years. I used to go back and reread them every now and then. Sad they’re gone, as well as the site itself. :< – @MallieTheSheep
My friends met on Pounced and are getting married this summer. My cousin saw his wife on the NY subway and met her through the ‘Missed Connections’ section. – @Reweth
Pounced was the only legit furry dating service I respected, considering the others tend to be the ones riddled with bots wanting you to buy premium to reply to their flirting. That’s a shame – Venice Springs
Tomorrow: a few more thoughts about this issue and what it means.
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