Media Campaign Against Craigslist Continues, As WaPo Writes Article About Its Own Anti-Craigslist Advertiser

from the conflict? dept

Last week, we wrote about how the misguided, politics-driven media campaign against Craigslist was ramping up again with a half-page ad in The Washington Post, obviously targeted at DC politicians. Paul Levy, who had sent over a scan of the ad now alerts us that the very next day, the Washington Post had a one-sided anti-Craigslist article, where it cites the ad. As Levy asks, has the Washington Post now stooped so low that buying a half-page ad gets you a one-sided story? Very disappointing move by the Washington Post.

The story, of course, is the same one that a bunch of politicians have been grandstanding over. There is prostitution on Craigslist. No doubt about it. Craigslist has set up a few different systems over the past couple of years to try to stop it, but of course, people always figure out ways to get around such blocks. The problem, now, is that all these politicians and media types seem to want to blame Craigslist, rather than blame the people actually involved in the prostitution rings. As we've noted time and time again, law enforcement agencies that work with Craigslist have found that it's a great tool for fighting illegal prostitution and breaking up prostitution rings. Craigslist actually has set up a special interface for law enforcement to use for this purpose.

The Washington Post notes exactly none of this. Instead, it asks why Craig Newmark hasn't responded to the "open letter" from a girl who was sold as an underage prostitute via the site a few years back (well before Craigslist set up these new restrictions). Separately, CNN ran a similar anti-Craigslist opinion piece written by the same group who bought the newspaper ads. At least CNN allowed Craigslist's Jim Buckmaster an opening to reply.

Obviously, this is a topic that creates an emotional response in many -- as it should. Underage girls forced into prostitution is a horrifying problem, and I'm all for doing anything possible to bring those actually responsible to justice. The problem is that putting the blame on Craigslist doesn't do anything to help solve the problem. If anything, it will make it much worse. It certainly won't stop those involved in forcing girls into prostitution rings. It certainly won't stop those rings from operating. It certainly won't stop the ability of individuals to find these rings via the internet. The only thing it will do is push that information further underground, to platforms and services that aren't willing to work with law enforcement and don't actually help efforts to stop such things. Blaming Craigslist is exactly the wrong approach and makes the problem worse. I read the open letter to Craig, and for very good reasons, it breaks your heart to hear about the horrible things that happened to these girls. But, in reading it, I can't help but wonder why their anger and questions are directed at Craig, rather than those who sold them as prostitutes.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    The news don't like craglist because it took a bite at their income.

     

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  2.  
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    Chris ODonnell (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    "...I can't help but wonder why their anger and questions are directed at Craig, rather than those who sold them as prostitutes."

    IAATM (It's Always About The Money). Craiglist's cash may be accessible via lawsuit to the prostitution victims. They won't be getting a settlement from the Russian Mafia or whoever might be running the prostitution operation.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    "IAATM (It's Always About The Money). Craiglist's cash may be accessible via lawsuit to the prostitution victims. They won't be getting a settlement from the Russian Mafia or whoever might be running the prostitution operation."

    Which makes for an interesting dynamic. The victims are no longer just victims, but perpetrators of a wrongdoing themselves. It's hard not to feel sorry for these poor women, but each misguided lawsuit designed to be a windfall chips away at our sympathy....

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:12am

    The Washington Post follows pure Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990 by stating that Newmark not responding to an open letter implies his guilt. It's absurd. I really liked his response.

     

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  5.  
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    keith (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    duh

    It's for the same reason people will buy a Prius or a Volt. They want to feel like they're doing something without actually having to do anything difficult.

    Simply put, it is much easier to blame craigslist and then feel good about yourself for taking action than spending time and energy figuring out how to do something truly effective.

     

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  6.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:28am

    "As Levy asks, has the Washington Post now stooped so low that buying a half-page ad gets you a one-sided story?"

    Mike, you're always saying that content producers should give value to their customers. Getting paid to write one-sided shill pieces sure beats t-shirts.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re: duh

    What...what does buying a Volt make people feel the are doing other than buying an over-priced car made using so much more petroleum than a regular car that it will take 10 years of filling up the regular car with gas to make up for it?

    Oh, maybe it's about the tax credit.

     

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  8.  
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    interval (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:32am

    The Post has come a long, dark way since the Pentagon Papers and Woodward & Bernstein. Kind of a long, dark, absurdest way.

     

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  9.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Honestly...

    The only reason DC is up in arms is because they tried some of those women and man....they look NOTHING like the picture....I mean seriously...

    Also, it makes them look like they are doing good when in actuality they do more harm. Its cheaper than actually doing good.

     

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  10.  
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    PaulT (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    Depends on whether you consider "customers" to mean readers or advertisers, I suppose, and therein lies the rub.

    Sure, advertisers pay more, but they won't for long if there's no readers to see them - and you can't please both sides at the same time...

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Joe Silence, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    Silence is Golden

    The real problem is not that Craigslist is being used for criminal purposes, but that the people in power are confronted by daily examples of their inability to fight it.

    I'm sure that for some, in places they don't want to talk about, they'd rather just forget that these terrible things happen at all, and for that, silence is golden.

     

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  12.  
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    Pierre Wolff (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    "But, in reading it, I can't help but wonder why their anger and questions are directed at Craig, rather than those who sold them as prostitutes."

    It's kinda like why our gov't and some people are exulting their anger at Wikileaks for their recent disclosures rather than examining the offenses mentioned in the documents and dealing w/those who perpetrated them. Another case of shoot the messenger I guess, 'cause the problem is too big to deal with.

    "It's just the same ol' song" -- Digital Underground ;)

     

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  13.  
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    cyrock (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:40am

    The real reason

    Follow the money........

     

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  14.  
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    Dave (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    I just figured it was a case of Stockholm Syndrome. The victims somehow come to admire their captors, but they realize the terrible thing that happened to them and have to blame SOMEONE for it.

     

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  15.  
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    BruceLD, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Subject

    Maybe the police should actually go after the chinese/russian/whatever mafia and Hell's Angels to stop prostitution, drug trafficking and money laundering.

    Why not go after the people that were forcing the kids to prostitute themselves?

    No wait, the police can't touch any of them. It might be easier to target a web site that doesn't actually have any control over it's users. Yes, go after Craigslist and make yourselves look like being tough heroes.

    *shrug*

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: duh

    Tax credit on a car priced 40% above its peers and that will drop20% of its value within 3 years? It doesn't even make economic sense with the Tax Credit, (Protip, neither did the Prius, unless you travelled way above average miles.)

     

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  17.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:21pm

    "it breaks your heart to hear about the horrible things that happened to these girls."

    Actually it make me think, what kind of scum bags are these newspaper types? Wanting their classified ad revenue back, they will use the faces of abused little girls for monetary gain.

    Oh wait, that makes tham no better than the Pimps ...

     

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  18.  
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    Ham S Amwich (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:43am

    CL LEO interface

    "Craigslist actually has set up a special interface for law enforcement to use for this purpose." That's interesting, and the first I've ever heard of it. Can someone provide more information about this? Thanks.

     

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  19.  
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    Ham S Amwich (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:43am

    CL LEO interface

    "Craigslist actually has set up a special interface for law enforcement to use for this purpose." That's interesting, and the first I've ever heard of it. Can someone provide more information about this? Thanks.

     

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  20.  
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    Ham S Amwich (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:44am

    apologies for the 2x post

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    kb, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Interesting to note

    It's interesting to note that 1) This techdirt article was referenced in the comments and 2) the comments were closed in less than 3 days.

    Normally comments stay open far longer than that. I'm guessing that the Post has issues with people pointing out their shoddy reporting.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Savage Nation, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 6:34am

    Poor Porno Pa' Craig is now the VICTIM?

    Yeah, RIGHT! I didn't know these blogs were filled with people who loved craigslist's skin ads so much. The question is, are you posters, or responders?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Savage Nation, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 6:38am

    You flunked gradeschool

    Wow, ramblings from an obviously illiterate moron. How about using multiple sentences, so people can understand you when you attack conservative figures?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Get Real, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 6:43am

    CL is a ho

    No, the real problem is, Craigslist was founded and is run by radical sexual activists who whore their otherwise free ad site for illegal activities. What's next Craigslist Drug Dealing section? You'd come to their defense telling people it's not CL fault those people are committing crimes with their publication...
    Uh, YEAH they're the ad vehicle, they take money for the crimes.
    Get real childrean.

     

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  25.  
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    unluddite (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re: CL is a ho

    Uh, YEAH they're the ad vehicle, they take money for the crimes
    Umm.. Craigs List doesn't charge any money to list on their site.

     

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  26.  
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    Elizabeth, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: CL is a ho

    Yes, for the adult section they do. To the tune of 36 or so million a year in profits.

     

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  27.  
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    Lili Balfour, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    There has never been a lawsuit. This is a campaign to bring awareness, and find solutions, to child sex trafficking.

    It's important to note that Craigslist has attempted to donate money to several human rights groups. All declined the offer due to where the money comes from. I personally asked an extremely liberal group in San Francisco if they would take the money. There response was, "Why take money from the same people (pimp traffickers) who are destroying the lives of young people?"

    I agree that they should be angry at the men who did this to them. And how do we know that they are not? The sad reality is that these men are rarely convicted. That's one (very big) piece of the problem.

    The more people call this "political" and question the motive of these young girls the further we move away from a solution. See Craig's blog for a discussion on how people can solve human trafficking. How do you solve a problem that is so hard to detect and so few people understand?

     

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  28.  
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    Lauren Taylor (profile), Aug 12th, 2010 @ 6:10pm

    "Great tool"

    In fact, law enforcement agencies will tell you a different story. When DC Metropolitan Police Investigator Brian Bray was interviewed, he stated they have never received a call from Craigslist.

    In addition, "In 2008, Craigslist agreed to report any suspicious ads to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which works with police to find and rescue trafficking victims. Two years and hundreds of thousands of sketchy ads later, the Center says Craigslist has reported fewer than 100." http://bit.ly/an8wIO

    Furthermore, "'The craigslist brothel business seems booming -- belying its promise to fight prostitution,' [Connecticut Attorney General Richard] Blumenthal said after issuing the subpoena Monday. 'We are asking craigslist for specific answers about steps to screen and stop sex-for-money offers -- and whether the company is actually profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block.'

    "... All of the specific steps Craigslist pledged to take in its agreement with the Attorneys General have apparently proved ineffective. According to law enforcement, ads for prostitution are proliferating and are barely disguised on the site. 'The best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on craigslist -- skimpily and slickly disguised with code words,' said Blumenthal earlier this week." http://bit.ly/bENRU6

    And, if Craigslist were truly interested in working with law enforcement, why did they file suit against South Carolina's Attorney General, "who is investigating the Internet company for carrying ads for prostitution?" http://bit.ly/9T4M5X

     

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  29.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 12th, 2010 @ 10:48pm

    Re: "Great tool"

    In fact, law enforcement agencies will tell you a different story. When DC Metropolitan Police Investigator Brian Bray was interviewed, he stated they have never received a call from Craigslist.

    Uh, that's backwards. The question is whether or not CL helps when law enforcement calls -- and we've pointed to *numerous* examples of police departments being thrilled with the help CL has given them. Sitting around waiting for them to call doesn't mean anything.

    Furthermore, "'The craigslist brothel business seems booming -- belying its promise to fight prostitution,' [Connecticut Attorney General Richard] Blumenthal said after issuing the subpoena Monday. 'We are asking craigslist for specific answers about steps to screen and stop sex-for-money offers -- and whether the company is actually profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block.'

    First of all, you can't trust anything Blumenthal says on this particular matter, because he's been blatantly ignoring the law in his tirades against CL. What's really funny is that the only reason CL charges *at all* for adult ads is because Blumenthal forced that on them in 2008. Why is it that you ignore this? He demanded they do something to deal with the ads, so the implemented a fee-system so that the ads would be tied to a credit card.

    Now he complains about exactly what he forced them to do?

    "... All of the specific steps Craigslist pledged to take in its agreement with the Attorneys General have apparently proved ineffective. According to law enforcement, ads for prostitution are proliferating and are barely disguised on the site. 'The best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on craigslist -- skimpily and slickly disguised with code words,' said Blumenthal earlier this week."

    Again, this is Blumenthal we're talking about, who has a LONG history of grandstanding on issues that get headlines without understanding what he's actually talking about. If those ads are on the site, why isn't he directing law enforcement to track down those ACTUALLY responsible and arresting them? The rise in prostitution on the site actually indicates a massive failure of Blumenthal to DO HIS JOB. Taking the ads off CL won't stop prostitution. Having Blumenthal do his job and arrest those actually responsible will actually do something.

    And, if Craigslist were truly interested in working with law enforcement, why did they file suit against South Carolina's Attorney General, "who is investigating the Internet company for carrying ads for prostitution?"

    Wow. Totally out of context. CL sued because McMaster -- totally ignoring Section 230 of the CDA accused CL of criminal activity. Being falsely accused of a crime by an attorney general is a serious matter, which is why CL sued.

     

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  30.  
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    Lili Balfour, Aug 13th, 2010 @ 10:18am

    The rationale behind charging for ads was that it would provide the needed funds to monitor them. The young girls in the Rebecca Project story were sold in 2009. People are outraged that Craigslist is pulling in an average $7.50 per ad yet they are still not effectively monitoring the ads.

    The pimp in the Rebecca Project story was using his credit card to place ads for 10 to 12 underaged girls at a time. That should have been a huge red flag. One man placing ads for numerous young girls looks like trafficking to me. Lauren has also pointed Craig to two ads this week that were highly suspicious -- one with a girl who appeared to be 15 and one that listed a girl who was available 24/7, seven days a week.

    What Craigslist is doing is not working. They need to either step it up or delete the section.

     

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  31.  
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    Brendan (profile), Aug 14th, 2010 @ 10:19pm

    Re:

    If somebody is paying for an Adult Services post, that's a good way to start trying to track them down.

    However, I doubt "this guy" just plain used his personal credit card. He probably distributed it over several (likely stolen) cards, making it less obvious than you suggest. It takes more work than you think to link together information like that.

    This is why Law Enforcement needs to work with CL to identify these posts as much as possible and track them down. That is, the POLICE should identify suspicious posts and INQUIRE with CL. CL should not have to sift through everything - its unreasonable and burdensome to expect them to.

    Blaming craigslist is wrong and useless. If they are found guilty, and decide to block Adult ads, those ads don't just disappear altogether - they move somewhere else. And that somewhere else will actually be several individual places, each of which will almost certainly be less inclined to help police than CL.

     

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  32.  
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    Lili Balfour, Aug 15th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Brendan,

    Why do you doubt what these youngs girls say happened to them? I believe them. I've talked with the people who rescue the victims. The victims are not lying. If she said it was one credit card, I would tend to believe it.

    Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn't have the funding to respond to every crime. I don't know where you live, but in California we are pushing for legislation that will seize the assets of convicted traffickers and use the proceeds to fight this problem and support the victims.

    You are right. When they are forced off Craigslist they will go somewhere else. That is why those involved in investigations are following the victims' leads. No matter where the traffickers go, they will be found. If you are selling people online, you will be caught.

     

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  33.  
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    Aaron Schoenberger, Sep 4th, 2010 @ 5:39pm

    Excellent Post!

    I think, and I could be wrong, but due to the Communications Decency Act (DCA) website owners are not responsible/liable for third party content posted on their site(s). This applies to forums, social networks, etc.

    Excellent article and thank you for sharing! :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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