Political Campaign Against Craigslist Ratchets Up

from the focused-on-the-wrong-thing dept

The ongoing, misguided and dangerously self-defeating grandstanding political campaign against Craigslist apparently ratcheted up a bit today. Paul Alan Levy points out that in the print edition of today’s Washington Post, there’s a giant “advertisement” that is an “open letter to Craig Newmark” from two former child prostitutes who were offered up via Craigslist. It is depressing and heartbreaking to hear their story:

However, placing the blame on Craigslist is entirely misguided. Yes, it was the tool that was used, but the anger should be directed at those who turned them into prostitutes, and at law enforcement for not using these publicly available tools to do their job. Some law enforcement agencies have learned that Craigslist is a great tool for finding and catching those responsible. If these sorts of ads get forced off Craigslist, it won’t stop the prostitution. It’ll just go further underground and make it that much more difficult for law enforcement to do anything. As it stands now, Craigslist works closely with law enforcement to catch those actually responsible. Blaming the company (or Craig himself) is misguided and likely to do more harm than good.

It makes for good political grandstanding — which is why it’s been put in the Washington Post on a giant ad on page 3. Politicians will see it, and you can bet someone will start grandstanding about this shortly… but it will be counterproductive. The real question should be why law enforcement isn’t using Craigslist more to find and stop the folks actually responsible for these sorts of horrible atrocities.

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Comments on “Political Campaign Against Craigslist Ratchets Up”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Tool

Yes, obviously!

I also maintain that a high degree of all crimes occur on concrete or asphalt; and as such these societally dangerous materials need to be outlawed, and everybody who helped create and sell said dangerous materials should be stripped of life and wealth in an attempt to recompense the public they have harmed!!

(for the children!)

; P

Ryan says:

Bad Idea

You continue to espouse the idea that our police and intelligence agencies can just surf through the Craigslist site constantly to find people breaking the law and stop them, but this sounds like a terrible idea.

Sure, they should use any evidence on there for investigation and prosecution after the fact, just as they do with other “tools” – but saying they should proactively use it to stop crime(as you seem to promote) would just be another surveillance increment on the path to Big Brother. We don’t want them watching stores and investigating anybody who buys bleach and a kitchen knife together, do we?

Leave it at the fact that Craigslist has no culpability here whatsoever, that politicians are a bunch of grandstanding assholes that give no shit about the lives of people they trample, that many people will find any excuse to get attention and pity as victims of wealthier individuals, and leave it at that.

another mike (profile) says:

to catch a predator on craigslist

Ever watch the show “To Catch a Predator?” I’m sure by now Chris Hanson has used Craigslist ads to, er, bring guests onto the show lol. It’s just so hilarious to watch the combination of horny and stupid. And it’s not like the police even have to go looking for the pedos they catch. These criminals will just dutifully line up at the designated collection point.
“OK, another one just finished up his interview. Hey, stop hogging all the doughnuts.”

BruceLD says:


Perhaps they should place their focus on those who were selling and exploiting the child prostitutes.

I’m sure that Craigslist logs all internet traffic at their web site including IP addresses, and shares that information with police.

I absolutely dislike pedophiles and people that exploit children, but seriously…trying to place blame on a web site that does all that it can to cooperate with law enforcement will accomplish absolutely nothing. Perhaps we should just shut down the streets to stop kids from prostituting on them as well.

Catch the pimps and john pedophiles instead. That’s where focus needs to be placed. The politicians are no better than the pimps and pedophiles if they feel they have to exploit the former child prostitutes for their own grandstanding and political gain. I find this in extremely bad taste.

Assholes! (sorry for the expletive but I’m just royally pissed off)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Subject

BruceLD wrote on Aug 6th, 2010 @ 2:58pm:
“I absolutely dislike pedophiles and people that exploit children”

If you found out your adult son had been seeing a shrink the last 10 years to help him deal with his pedophilia AND you knew he never exploited a child and had zero risk of doing so in the future, would you sill absolutely dislike him?

My point is pedophilia is a mental illness, you shouldn’t like or dislike someone because of how God made them. I do agree with you, people do choose their actions and they choose what actions they put in their “I’ll never do that no matter what” box. “Absolutely disliking” someone who won’t put exploiting children in their “I’ll never do that no matter what” box is reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's already happening

In many cities throughout America, there are local campaigns to get seedy hotels shut down or at least put enough police around them to deter prostitution.

Likewise there are local campaigns to get police to monitor back alleys and street corners known for prostitution.

Such local campaigns rarely get beyond the local news media.

I see the campaign to get Craigslist to “clean up” as an extension of this, only with national scope and national publicity.

vrob (profile) says:

I probably shouldn't say anything but...

These testimonials, heart-breaking as they may be, just don’t seem plausible without a hefty dose of stupid along with a variety of personality malfunctions – and/or a seriously dysfunctional “family” scenario. In any case, the blame is squarely placed on the people involved, not the messenger/conduit.

I can’t see this as anything more than a thinly-veiled ploy to sway Congress into enacting laws that will finally enable greater control/censorship over Internet content for those who have sought such control for so many years. Child porn has long been the big gun in the arsenal of those who seek to censor and limit the Internet – and it really isn’t much of a stretch from child porn to “enabling” child prostitution/human trafficking.

The people who are using these stories, and/or creating these stories, to garner support for upcoming legislation should be ashamed.

Bill Zionema says:

craig's list

from the “mike is an ideological butt boy” department…

it’s bad enough that your “insights” are so conventionally dull and predictable. but your knee-jerk defense of craigslist ignores the existence of lingering & real issues regarding sex-related ads on the site. craigslist is a wonderful service but it’s had more than a year to get this straightened out. let’s hope it does. your “grandstanding” argument is absurd. then again, it’s par for the course from you

Lili Balfour says:


Mike – I’m confused. Who are you calling political? The human rights group, Rebecca Project?

I think you might want to learn about their work before you label them as political. http://www.rebeccaproject.org

In addition, here is a study conducted in fall 2009, which highlights the popularity of child sex on Craigslist, but not other sites — http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/sites/wfnet.org/files/AFNAP/TheSchapiroGroupGeorgiaDemandStudy.pdf

This has nothing to do with Blumenthal (politics) and everything to do with bringing down the child sex trade. Unfortunately, what Craigslist is doing isn’t working.

Eliza says:


Craigslist makes it easier for men to find prostitutes, and easier for pimps to exploit children. The harder it is for men to find women, the less the demand for them will be. Craigslist may be a better tool for the police, but only because the perpetuate more crime. They need to shut down their adult services section.

Lili Balfour says:

Re: Re: Disagree

You are comparing people who engage in pedophilia and the commercial sexual exploitation of children to people who would rather share than pay for music. Do you think the young girls (and boys) who are victimized are equivalent to a file?

I would like to think that our society would put more value on a human life than a file. The young people who are victimized by this crime are often brainwashed, bullied, drugged and beaten into submission. Most of the victims are recruited in their early teens by adult men pretending to be a friend or a boyfriend. They are typically branded or tattooed with their pimp traffickers name to make sure that other pimps know who they belong to. When these young people finally escape this type of modern day slavery they are left to deal with gaps in education, drug addiction, STDs, post traumatic stress disorder and criminal records.

Youth sex trafficking is creating a generation of young people who will not be able to cope in society without extensive rehabilitation. Maybe you do not think this is your problem. Here is one reason it is:

Currently, the justice system views these young people as criminals. They are arrested and sent to jail, costing tax payers approximately $50k per year. Once they finish their sentence they will spend time in rehab, costing tax payers approximately $10k per month. Assume that all sentences are one year and all victims recover in 3 months. Taxpayers will pay approximately $80K per year for every victim. We could solve a lot more problems if we set aside $80k per year to help at-risk youth living in inner-cities, foster care or on the streets.

Human rights groups would like Craigslist to remove the adult services sections because that is where the young victims are telling them most of the activity occurs. It is important to note that human trafficking victims reported being sold on Washington Post and several months later the Post removed the section.

It is all very simple. If you cannot control the abuse on your site, remove the section.

There needs to be a zero tolerance policy on the trafficking of human beings. This is no longer a third world country problem. The youngest American victim I have ever heard about was a 2 year old that was sold by her own mother. This happened in Texas, not Cambodia. http://www.nestfoundation.org

We need to stop incarcerating the victims and start incarcerating the men who buy and sell them.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Disagree

“You are comparing people who engage in pedophilia and the commercial sexual exploitation of children to people who would rather share than pay for music. Do you think the young girls (and boys) who are victimized are equivalent to a file?”

No, I am not. I am comparing the response to them. Destroying Napster did not end the illegal music trade, and in fact it caused it to thrive; destroying Craigslist will certainly not end the prostitution trade online, and may in fact cause it to thrive, having been driven further underground to the seedier elements. The rest of your post, based on your opening paragraph, is not worth my time reading.

Lili Balfour says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Disagree

Thanks, Andrew. That’s a really mature response.

Maybe someday you will bring yourself to read the rest of my post and maybe even do your own research on the topic. You will then see that nobody has ever advocated “destroying Craigslist.”

This is exactly why this problem is so hard to tackle. People like you who have strong opinions about it, yet can’t be bothered to spend the time to understand street economics and how “those other people” live.

I hope you have a great day.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disagree

Ok, I read one line further, “I would like to think that our society would put more value on a human life than a file.” That’s nice, but has nothing to do with what I said, and it appears to be a slight directed at me, suggesting that I had made such an equation. So you greatly insulted me here, and that is far less mature than anything I could give in return.

I absolutely agree that prostitutes should not be arrested, because what they are doing should be legalized. As for child prostitutes, guess what, then it falls under child labor laws. Everybody wins. Light is the best disinfectant; keep the economy underground, and there will be no checks and balances on behavior. Which is precisely why such children are abused the way they are. Not because of Craigslist. Shut it down, a dozen more sites will (and in fact, have) pop up in its place to cater to this market, and do not fool yourself, it is a gigantic market. Instead of hunting it down in some misguided prohibition like the drug war, open it up and embrace it. Stop being scared of it.

If you could only have communicated your opinion without a misguided rant.

Lili Balfour says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Disagree


It wasn’t a misguided rant. You are comparing selling humans to file sharing. I better analogy would be the drug trade.

I have no problem with people using marijuana, but I do have a problem with drug dealers getting innocent people hooked on street drugs, so they can profit from their misery.

I believe in harsh penalities for those who profit from street drugs (humans) and rehabilatation services for the addicts (victims).

If you read the first few pages of the study I linked to you will see that MOST people looking for underaged girls were looking on Craigslist. The investigation tried to find the same activity on Backpage but gave up as they had very few bites.

I have been following this cause for nearly a decade. I can honestly tell you that the majority of victims claim that they were sold on Craigslist. Why would they lie?

I don’t believe that deleting the adult services ads from Craigslist would destroy the site. In fact, it would bring back those who are currently boycotting. I also don’t believe that it will solve the problem of forced sex trafficking. This is a multifaceted problem that requires awareness, education and legislation.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Disagree

No, I’m not “comparing humans to file sharing”, and your insistence that I am discourages me from this conversation. I’m not sure how “comparing humans to drugs” is any better than comparing them to an MP3.

There’s a reason the majority say they were sold on Craigslist – because Craigslist has the vast majority of listings. If those were to disappear, the trade would not disappear, it would move to other sites, like Backpage or even seedier ones. Be careful what you wish for; just as the labels rejoiced in killing Napster, they laid the seeds of their own destruction. Or, just as politicians rejoiced in banning alcohol or drugs, they had planted the seeds of years of mob violence and dependence on unregulated consumables. Just as some would rejoice in the death of ‘adult personals’ on Craigslist, be careful where those personals may appear next. You won’t end [child] prostitution by targeting Craigslist, you won’t even dent it.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sounds like the best thing to do to combat child abuse (Perverted Justice hardly is about pimping, from what I understand) is to force AOL and Yahoo to police IM chats, since it seems that’s how most of PJ’s fish get hooked. I’m not sure how bringing up PJ (which is not generally about prostitution) has anything to do with a discussion about Craigslist and online hooker ads, child or otherwise.

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