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"— *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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A shame to see it go, I met one of my best friends through Pounced many years ago.
Where is the investigation? Why did you just take what Pounced wrote and go with it? Why are you accepting their interpretation rather than actually reading the law?
Pounced is lying to everyone. They shut down because they are “operating an adult oriented website which is facilitating the exploitation of minors in reckless disregard for the safety of minors.” Oddly enough, what they have been doing, by being incredibly lax in their enforcement of the age requirements, is already in violation of existing laws. All this does is, curiously enough, make Wolfpac and other administrators also criminally and civilly liable – for the things they have already done. So, by deleting the site’s contents from the server, Pounced.org has actually admitted guilt by trying to hide the fact that the site does in fact facilitate the exploitation of minors and that they have operated it in reckless disregard for the law and for the safety of minors. It does nothing to have shut down the site except to say to anyone who might be investigating (ahem…) that they are guilty.
By the way, this is legal terminology which basically means that they weren’t just careless, but bordering on intentionally looking the other way as minors used the site and as a result were sexually exploited. I know these things because of my extensive experience in law. I have provided a legal analysis of the FOSTA legislation as it applies to Pounced.org, and I have provided my opinion as well as some facts and evidence based on my personal involvement with Pounced, as I have been a user since 2005, and have complained on numerous occasions about the lax enforcement of the age policy and the pathetic reasoning behind leaving suspected ads up (they require a confession from the user only and will accept nothing else, no matter how convincing.)
As a result of that incident, about 3 weeks ago or so, I contacted the authorities where Wolfpac lives and expressed my concerns at the volume of minors using the site, and the explicit nature of the site and their participation. I myself have seen several ads from children as young as 13, and was twice involved in conversations of an explicit nature with people I later found out were 15 (one of whom had his parents and the police called.)
One curiosity about this whole incident that no one has mentioned besides myself: why did they delete the contents of the server rather than just freezing it as read-only? Why delete everything? Yes, they reposted the Terms of Service, Wiki, and a link to the Twitter feed, but only days after they deleted the entire contents of the host server. Why? Guilty perhaps?
And more importantly, why all this talk about prostitutes, the law is about protecting children from being sold for sex as they were on Backpage.com, which is in fact the website targeted by this legislation. Do your research. Obviously these “journalists” here and elsewhere won’t do it for you…
Where to start?
First, I did look at the law, it says so in the piece, and though I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know if you missed where it says that or just don’t care and want to yell.
A screed to rehash everything you already wrote on Flayrah, while brushing aside skepticism that was raised, makes this less, not more attention getting.
You seem to be someone who wanted to buy the site and look extra burned up about a personal grudge. This isn’t doing anything to improve that bad look. You did something super questionable, went to media and cops and sent them the admin’s private offsite AD account, what does that have to do with claims he was mishandling user interaction on the site?
And you’re claiming expertise in law (what credentials?) while hiding ID. I make a lot of claims myself, but at least they’re tied to a recognizable presence, with links, screenshots or other evidence sourced to places besides my opinion, to the best of my ability.
Supposedly they’re in violation of law, yet, all those reports you made resulted in what? They did nothing? Then why are you yelling at me or the site instead of criticizing police negligence? Is an amateur hobby writer supposed to investigate what they didn’t? Or are those claims stretching the truth?
What’s wrong if they deleted everything? Perhaps they prefer secure backups because of just what this appears to be, someone wanting to turn sensitive private user data into a football. That’s not evidence of guilt, it can be evidence of security.
If you’d read the multiple professionally written opinion articles linked in the piece, from the EFF and so on, you would see that this is absolutely more than “protecting children” and is likely to damage innocent activities. Pardon me for expanding on those sources instead of an anon in the comments claiming to be a law expert who knows better, and accusing me of not reading the law.
On Flayrah when I asked about your ID, proof, etc I was willing to hear more. At this point it’s put up or shut up.
Taking down a service is far different than actually deleting something. Pounced said they shut down the site, they did not say they deleted the content, and in fact, they had a message that said users would have an opportunity in the future to get their data.
Pounced.org is acting responsibly knowing that it may be difficult for them to comply with the new legal standard. You, however obviously have a personal ax to grind.
I am deeply upset that pounced.org is shutting down. I found my husband through the personal ads. I can also tell you from my experience that the site is no more lax than any other dating site I’ve used before.
If you found teens on the site, you should have reported them to the admins. I think you’re trying to personally attack pounced for issues that are obviously not grounded in reality. You should stop.
Okay, a few minutes of research as you suggested and I’m left with an interesting observation. Either you’re a liar, or you’re admitting to violating the Pounced TOS.
You claim you’ve been a pounced user since 2005, yet on your FA page linked to your name above which created in November of 2017 (odd for someone in the fandom for so long isn’t it?), you claim to be 27.
13 years on Pounced, 27 years old….
So, which is it?
Good catch, thanks Max. I will be blocking all further comments from that user as trolling, as long as they are simply dodging questions to attack me and anyone else who has asked for ID and proof.
[…] Yesterday’s article covered the closing of Pounced, a long-lived furry dating and personals site, out of fear of legal liability under a controversial new law, FOSTA. A statement on Pounced discussed ill-defined wording that made the law overkill; and how the smallest organizations may face the worst liability. It particularly could require administration that sounds easy on paper, but makes an untenable burden in practice. […]
[…] a post on Dogwatch Press […]
I hate to even think it but What dose it mean for
Fur Affinity or the rest of the websites??
“stupid”” Inane” and “juvenile” were not banned, so FA should be safe.
[…] As stated on dogpatch.press – there were hook ups. When planning a trip to a FurCon, furries would connect via the forum on Pounced.org. In doing so they would make arrangements to share a room together. […]