Craigslist Caving Shows The Perils Of Self-Policing... Or The Perils Of Grandstanding Politicians?

from the i'd-argue-the-latter dept

Following Craigslist's decision to cave in to demands and start monitoring every "adult services" post on its platform, the Wall Street Journal is running a rather odd article suggesting that this somehow shows "the perils of self-policing" by a community, and suggesting that such crowdsourced reviews don't work. Except, that's a gross misreading of the actual situation. The crowdsourcing worked just fine. The issue was that members of the Craigslist community didn't have a problem with the ads in question. Those who did have problems were grandstanding politicians looking to get elected to higher office. If anything, it doesn't show the perils of self-policing, it shows the perils of getting caught in the sights of grandstanding politicians who need to whip up populist anger even if they have no legal basis to do so.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2009 @ 7:45pm

    Velvet Jones School of Technology, "I Wanna be a Ho" (Eddie Murphy on SNL) at least had redeeming value. Can't say the same for much of the stuff on CL. Seriously, an ad calling for a "donation" of "100 diamonds for 1/2 hour" hardly strikes me as something that should be a poster child for "keep the internet free".

    Why not just restructure CL by spinning-out it's "erotic services" group as an LLC, and then having this new entitiy publish online ads under the by-line "Craig's Hos for Hire"?

    If a magazine publisher did this I rather doubt it would be in business very long. But, if you are an on-line service, then 230 should be an absolute shield...no if's, and's or but's.

    Give me a break....

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2009 @ 8:36pm

    Secret List

    What if Craigs List got together with Victorias Secret ...

     

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  3.  
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    Mike (profile), May 18th, 2009 @ 11:38pm

    Re:

    Velvet Jones School of Technology, "I Wanna be a Ho" (Eddie Murphy on SNL) at least had redeeming value. Can't say the same for much of the stuff on CL. Seriously, an ad calling for a "donation" of "100 diamonds for 1/2 hour" hardly strikes me as something that should be a poster child for "keep the internet free".

    Yes, so the issue is with the PERSON WHO POSTED THE AD. I'm not sure why this is so hard for people to comprehend. It is not Craigslist's responsibility, nor should it be.

    Why not just restructure CL by spinning-out it's "erotic services" group as an LLC, and then having this new entitiy publish online ads under the by-line "Craig's Hos for Hire"?

    Huh? That makes no sense. CL made no profit from this section.

    If a magazine publisher did this I rather doubt it would be in business very long. But, if you are an on-line service, then 230 should be an absolute shield...no if's, and's or but's.

    Oh come on. Is this really that confusing? First of all, many magazines DO publish such ads and don't get in trouble for it -- but why let facts get in the way of ignorance? Second, the difference between a magazine and Craigslist (and this has been noted many times before), is that the ads in a magazine are all hand reviewed by the publisher before hand. That's not the case with Craigslist.

    Section 230 has nothing to do with it. It's just common sense.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2009 @ 11:40pm

    sign me up for Victoria's list!

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:12am

    You've got a typo, you left out the "d" in "granstanding" in your title!

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 1:48am

    Re:

    You've got a typo, you left out the "d" in "granstanding" in your title!

    Oops. Fixed. Thanks.

     

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  7.  
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    Jack Sombra, May 19th, 2009 @ 2:13am

    Ironic that "The Perils Of Grandstanding Politicians" make well intentioned self-policing a risky and dangerous activity

     

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  8.  
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    theskyrider (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 3:07am

    Grandstanding = Politicians protecting us from ourselves

    So really, what was the problem with the 'Erotic Services' section anyway? I personally have never used it, but what was the deal?

    I'll tell you the deal...They were protecting us from ourselves. Just like politicians were 'protecting' the American people from alcohol when they enacted the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

    It is funny to watch, though. The only thing that would make the show better is for one of these wing-nut politicians getting caught with a prostitute (especially that female AG that was raising her part of the fuss.)

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 3:38am

    Re: Re:

    Oh come on. Is this really that confusing? First of all, many magazines DO publish such ads and don't get in trouble for it -- but why let facts get in the way of ignorance? Second, the difference between a magazine and Craigslist (and this has been noted many times before), is that the ads in a magazine are all hand reviewed by the publisher before hand. That's not the case with Craigslist.

    Support your assertion with some examples. Otherwise, the ignorance is yours.

    Look, newspapers and even the Yellow Pages have had "Massage" and "Escort" ads for years, but at no time did those ads request money. The services on CL explicitly request or mention a fee for service and that's the problem. Couching the request as "diamonds" or some other exchange doesn't work either.

    There is a lot of support on this blog for the concept of CL being a neutral party but what is never discussed is if they or any other online publication should have those ads. The laws need to catch up with the technology; that's always the case. Call them "grandstanding" pols if you wish, but a little social responsibility on CL's part would make far more sense.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 5:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Panties in a twist ... too funny.

     

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  11.  
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    PRMan, May 19th, 2009 @ 5:13am

    I am completely against prostitution

    But should we arrest Caltrans workers because a prostitute showed up on their road in Hollywood?

    Should we arrest AT&T workers because a prostitute used a phone?

    Should we arrest Motel 6 executives because undoubtedly prostitutes have used their services without their knowledge for years?

    No, in every case it is the prostitutes and Johns that are arrested, not the "places" where these things happen.

    Now, suddenly because it's Craigslist, we should arrest Craig Newmark? If so, we need to check off the above list first, because there has been far more prostitution in the previous 3 locations mentioned.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    Re: I am completely against prostitution

    there is no way for at&t to know what is on the phone without tapping. there is no way for caltrans to know what is going on without interrogating every passanger. more hotel chains will kick out working girls if they have multiple clients visit a room.

    none of that compared with CL, where the ad is there in plain sight, often using very blatant language.

    trust me. caltrans would call the cops to evict hookers soliciting in their stations. at&t would cut off the phone service of a hooker randomly calling people offering service, etc. compare equal things and see where you really are at.

     

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  13.  
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    Evil Mike, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: I am completely against prostitution

    Obviously your grasp on logistics & technology (and reality) is rather tenuous.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    First of all, many magazines DO publish such ads and don't get in trouble for it -- but why let facts get in the way of ignorance?

    Point noted. Why just the other day I found this in the classifieds of the SF Chronicle and the SJ MN. Wait a sec...I am mistaken. It was Craigslist for the SF BA. Glad I remembered lest I misspoke.

    Bears looking for f***toy - mm4m
    Reply to:pers-qmvuy-1178000412@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-05-18, 9:43PM PDT
    Hey all you cute guys out there, I am looking for someone to take care of my man while i'm not around, we live a ways apart and don't see each other more than once a week and he really really loves taking it up the a**. We only ask a a few things of you, You must not be a femboy, or really flamboyant, You must have proof your clean(must of had a check no longer than 3 months ago) we are looking for a top. It would be nice if you could host since his bed is kinda small, but if not w/e you can sleep with him... If he is ok with it
    Send me a message with a picture and ill send you one of him, If you pass his judgment ill organize a meeting in person


    Let's be clear. CL is not a philanthropy. It charges fees for certain types of ads, and uses the "free" for other types of ads to entice people to the site. It then goes on to try and avoid any responsibility for the "free" by using a TOS that is nothing more than a "head in the sand" disclaimer. I have to wonder if CL would enjoy its current popularity if it was a PAYG site for all ads, in which case it would run into significant legal problems if current "free" ads such as noted above were presented to the public at large.

    To try and say that CL is a "dumb pipe" that should bear no responsibility for what appears on its site is indeed a slender reed for supporting an argument such as you advocate. It is a platform for "content". It chooses to charge for some of the "content" while turning a blind eye and deaf ear to all other "content". Sorry, but using CL as a poster child to lambaste "evil AGs" is downright silly and not calculated to present a compelling argument.

    If CL permitted paid content to advertise appartment rentals with a category "DNR2DP" (Do not rent to disabled people", it would get hauled into court by the DOJ and state authorities so fast your head would spin. By your logic, if this category was added to the "free" list it should be able to hide behind its TOS and Safe Harbors. Sorry, but in the real world this is not how things operate.

     

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  15.  
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    Rob, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    I am completely against phone-hookers

    "at&t would cut off the phone service of a hooker randomly calling people offering service".

    Well AT&T haven't cut off the hookers that call me all the time and say they're from credit card services or that the warranty on my car is about to expire. Yes those whores are much more disturbing to me than anything on CL.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Support your assertion with some examples.

    Linking to such ads would be a crime, based on your reasoning... But I assume you can use a search engine. Start there.

    There is a lot of support on this blog for the concept of CL being a neutral party but what is never discussed is if they or any other online publication should have those ads. The laws need to catch up with the technology; that's always the case. Call them "grandstanding" pols if you wish, but a little social responsibility on CL's part would make far more sense.

    The law is already quite caught up with technology. The person POSTING THE AD is liable for its content. Why do you not see that? CL has a system whereby the community can flag any objectionable content and if enough people do, it gets taken down.

    Either way, why don't you take it a step further. Why is it CL's responsibility instead of your ISPs? Why don't they have to review everything you do online to make sure it isn't involved in prostitution? After all, a little social responsibility on AT&T's part would make far more sense.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Re:

    Point noted. Why just the other day I found this in the classifieds of the SF Chronicle and the SJ MN. Wait a sec...I am mistaken. It was Craigslist for the SF BA. Glad I remembered lest I misspoke.

    So you have a problem with that ad? Fine. Whoever posted it may have broken the law, and thus they deserve to be dealt with. That's what we've said all along. But why would you blame Ford because some people speed with Fords? It makes no sense.

    Let's be clear. CL is not a philanthropy.

    No one ever said it was, and whether or not it is is rather meaningless to the discussion. You're making an emotional argument that clouds your logic.

    It charges fees for certain types of ads, and uses the "free" for other types of ads to entice people to the site. It then goes on to try and avoid any responsibility for the "free" by using a TOS that is nothing more than a "head in the sand" disclaimer.

    I could just as easily say the same thing about Ford selling cars that speed. How hard is it to recognize the difference between a tool and a user? I mean, honestly, this is one of the most basic concepts in the world?

    Who else do you blame? Do you blame the AT&T for selling the guy who posted the ad internet access and having a TOS that has the exact same clauses as CL? Do you blame Dell for selling him the computer and not stopping him from posting such an ad?

    Sorry, but using CL as a poster child to lambaste "evil AGs" is downright silly and not calculated to present a compelling argument.

    No, the only thing silly is blaming a tools provider for the actions of its users.

    Hell, based on your logic, we here at Techdirt are liable for you being unable to recognize the difference between For and the driver of a Ford.

    If CL permitted paid content to advertise appartment rentals with a category "DNR2DP" (Do not rent to disabled people",

    Well, depending on which circuit that ended up it would actually be slightly open to question. With the Roommates decision (one which many people think was a terrible misread of section 230) you'd be right.

    But, here's the problem. Nowhere does CL have such a section. Nor do they have a section that says "post your prostitution ads here." There are a number of perfectly legitimate adult services and that's the section they have.

    I could just as easily say that if you had posted a comment here advertising that you'd perform sexual acts for money, then obviously you should be arrested.

    The problem with both examples? It didn't happen. Why do you need to pretend CL did something it did not?

    By your logic, if this category was added to the "free" list it should be able to hide behind its TOS and Safe Harbors. Sorry, but in the real world this is not how things operate.

    In the real world, at least I can comprehend the difference between explicitly creating a section just for prostitution and one for the many different adult services out there. You should join us out here in the real world.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    If a store in your downtown gets spray painted by taggers, they are required to clean it up. Is it the fault of the building owner? No, but they still have to clean it up, why should CL be any different?

     

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  19.  
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    AnonCow, May 19th, 2009 @ 11:05am

    Tyranny of the Minority...

     

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  20.  
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    anymouse, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Lets back the 'pay' vs 'free' train up a little bit and see where it started

    It was only a while ago that CL instituted the 'fee' for erotic service type adds.... at the behest of various 'grandstanding' politicians.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122599588978005497.html

    So, CL was originally a totally FREE online classified listing service that would have definitely qualified for section 230 protection. But the government complained and politicians bitched and moaned and so they instituted the 'pay' for erotic services section to cut down on the number of these types of adds (before this there were free tools and multiple spammers posting various adds of this type, apparently).

    Now people are saying that because there is a 'pay' section, CL should be liable for the adds that are posted there.... What The Frack is this country coming to?

    Looks like it's time to start CL2 in antigua or aruba or some other small online 'friendly' country and go back to just providing free listings of all types of adds. At least that's what I'd be looking into if I was in charge of CL, but I tend to be spiteful like that....

     

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  21.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    If a store in your downtown gets spray painted by taggers, they are required to clean it up. Is it the fault of the building owner? No, but they still have to clean it up, why should CL be any different?

    If you can't understand the difference between that and what's happening here, you're way far gone.

    First, CL DOES clean up such posts when they found out about them. What the don't do is proactively monitor them (well, they do now), because there was no need to do so. If you had an infinitely big wall, and someone painted some grafitti in the corner, you might not notice it until someone points it out, and then you'd clean it up. And... in fact... that's exactly what CL has and did.

    Oops. Your whole analogy is wrong.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    cl profits greatly from erotic service ads because traffic flow is used to define value for paying advertisers in other areas. cl is the number 1 classified site in large part due to erotic ads sections which are very popular. remove that traffic and see where cl ends up their ad prices likely will go down.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 5:35pm

    Re:

    cl profits greatly from erotic service ads because traffic flow is used to define value for paying advertisers in other areas. cl is the number 1 classified site in large part due to erotic ads sections which are very popular. remove that traffic and see where cl ends up their ad prices likely will go down.

    Spoken without any basis for support whatsoever. Also it's quite difficult to support the claim that ad prices would go down without erotic services, as CL only charges for a very small number of ads in a few cities. The type of ads it charges for have nothing to do with erotic services. I've used CL for years, and never even knew it had an erotic services category until this whole mess happened.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    you dont need to know they have erotic section. you just know #1 ad site by traffic. sort of like how much of your traffic is people searching for torrents.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    you dont need to know they have erotic section. you just know #1 ad site by traffic. sort of like how much of your traffic is people searching for torrents.

    Can you parse that into English? And, uh, I can tell you without a doubt that we don't get any traffic from people searching for torrents.

     

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