Attorneys General Continue Grandstanding Against Craigslist

from the it-makes-headlines dept

This is hardly a surprise, given the well-coordinated media campaign against Craigslist, but despite multiple “settlements” with various state attorneys general, it appears that those AGs keep going back to the headline-generating well of demanding Craigslist “fix” things. You may recall that nearly two years ago, after being hounded by some AGs, Craigslist settled with the AGs, despite clearly being protected by Section 230 of the CDA. However, despite it being “settled,” some AGs felt it wasn’t enough and six months later there was another settlement. And, of course, it wasn’t long before the AGs started complaining again.

So, take a guess what’s happening now. Once again, 17 attorneys general (down from in the past) have sent a letter demanding that Craigslist shut down the “adult services” section of the site (which, it should be noted, Craigslist only created in response to AG pressure in one of these earlier settlements). What’s ridiculous about this is that it’s a complete “head in the sand” approach that these AGs are taking towards their jobs. In fact, this is the exact opposite of them doing their jobs. Rather than actually going after any criminals who use Craigslist — as some smart law enforcement officials do — these AGs are actively pushing this activity further underground where it will be harder for them to stop it. And they’re doing it by focusing in on the highly emotional claims of “child trafficking” on the site — as if those involved suddenly will stop trafficking if they can’t post to Craigslist.

Frankly, it’s sickening. These 17 attorneys general are effectively demanding that Craigslist stop making it so easy for them to find people involved in child trafficking. Here’s a great way for these AGs to actually do their job and to use the tools readily available to track down, capture and stop human traffickers, and their response is to grandstand and blame the company that helps them do that. Rather than fighting human trafficking, these AGs are further enabling it.

Just recently we wrote about Topix CEO Chris Tolles’ experience dealing with crusading AGs who know they don’t have the law on their side, but who use the press to bully companies into changing. Watching this process play out with Craigslist, it’s clear that even if you “settle” those AGs may continue to hound you, as long as it’s going to generate headlines falsely claiming that they’re “doing something” to “protect the children.”

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Companies: craigslist

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Comments on “Attorneys General Continue Grandstanding Against Craigslist”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Never give into a bully ....

“Watching this process play out with Craigslist, it’s clear that even if you “settle” those AGs may continue to hound you, as long as it’s going to generate headlines falsely claiming that they’re “doing something” to “protect the children.””

If they want these grandstanding AGs to stop they should fight back. They should use the 36 million dollars a year they make this year on adult ads to fund who ever is running against these AGs in the next election. Watch how quickly this stops.

Anonymous Coward says:

Police Theatre

This is a fine example of Police Theater. The trouble with Police Theater is that it takes police away from Real Policing, which is finding, catching and jailing the bad guys. Police Theater therefore actually reduces public safety. Alas, Police Theater is wonderfully easy to do and you can spend unlimited time and money on it. The sheeple lap it up.

jake andrews (profile) says:


“These reports and others show that that (sic) craigslist’s imagined utopia, where every Adult Services advertisement is harmless until proven otherwise, is a fallacy”
Yes!!! it is non-sense to assume anyone posting an add on craigslist is innocent until proven guilty, heck it’s downright un-American to presume that something is legal before it is proven otherwise.

TDR says:

Something you said in the article made me wonder, Mike:

“Rather than fighting human trafficking, these AGs are further enabling it.”

Maybe that’s what they really want (aside from the headlines and higher office that is). Perhaps because they themselves partake of it? I wouldn’t discount the possibility. They’re politicians, after all, and they wouldn’t know morality if it walked up and hit them in the face.

Pixelation says:


After reading that letter, I have to say…Wow, just wow!

From the fine letter… ” In your recent blog posts and public statements, including the CNN interview, you imply
that victims, law enforcement officials and children’s advocates may be at least partially to
blame for these incidents because they have not provided craigslist with police reports, ad copy
or links documenting these heinous crimes. This variant of “blame the victim” is deeply
troubling. “

You want proof?…Think of the children, you victim blamer, that’s your proof.
These people are very obviously lawyers.

Lili Balfour says:

Victims have no reason to lie

“Rather than fighting human trafficking, these AGs are further enabling it.”

Mike – I guess you know nothing about the history of child sex trafficking in the US.

For the past 10 years, people like Norma Hoteling, and other experts, have been complaining about the popularity of child sex on Craigslist.

What Craigslist is doing is not working. They have been given plenty of chances to make changes (ie charge a small fee to cover the cost of reviewing their ads) yet they are still the most common place for child sex trafficking in the United States.

My sources include the victims of child sex trafficking and the organizations that serve them. They all agree that Craigslist’s inability (or unwillingness) to put their foot down sends a welcoming message to the pimps, traffickers and pedophiles. That’s why they continue to go to CL and not other sites.

If victims were being sold on other sites, they would tell us that. They have no reason to lie about where they were sold.

Cipher-0 says:

Re: Victims have no reason to lie

What Craigslist is doing is not working. They have been given plenty of chances to make changes (ie charge a small fee to cover the cost of reviewing their ads) yet they are still the most common place for child sex trafficking in the United States.

What Craigslist is doing is perfectly legal. What the AGs want to do in forcing Craigslist to take down ads is not.
If Craigslist makes it so easy for child trafficking, doesn’t it also make it easy, oh I don’t know, for LAW ENFORCEMENT TO FIND THEM TOO?

Dave (user link) says:

Excellent point.

Very nicely said and some great comments as well! If this was really about saving women and children, these AGs would be thanking Craig’s List for bringing all these pimps together in one place so they could be rounded up and marched off to prison.

Of course, there is no round up. There’s just a bunch of wild speculation and delusional claims of victims being herded off to become sex slaves. And it most certainly has nothing to do with saving children.

In any case, Craig’s List will never be able to satisfy their detractors. Trying to please moral crusaders and petty tyrants just whets their appetite for more.

Lili Balfour says:

Victims have no reason to lie

I have a legitimate argument. All experts and victims agree that what Craigslist is doing is not working. They have had 10 years to fix it.

Again, why don’t you stand behind your comments with your real name? This is my real name. I have no reason to hide my identity. Do you?

Anonymous Coward? Sounds about right. Why do I bother?

Dave (user link) says:

Real name?

So, if someone hides their real name, it’s because they must have something to hide? That sounds like the same argument the Department of Homeland Security uses when they want to tap your phone or intercept your email without a warrant.

What the HELL does someone’s name have to do with what they’re saying? Does the fact that you use your real name make your statement that “All experts and victims agree…” any more believable?

If all experts and victims agreed, you wouldn’t “bother” arguing here. The attack on Craig’s List is a crusade by the moral crusaders in the rescue industry, a few state politicians looking for headlines, and the mainstream media looking for a sensational story to boost profits. The one thing it is not about is victims. Claims of helping women and especially children are a staple strategy for all moral crusades. And you don’t have to be a rocket doctor to see through this one.

Lili Balfour says:

re: Real name?

Dave – Reread what I wrote. I asked why this person is not using their real name. I didn’t state that they have something to hide. I stated that I have no reason to hide my identity.

The fact that someone refuses to stand by their comment with their real name tells me that they are not so sure of their facts. I’m 100% certain of the facts that I state.

So I’m a moral crusader because I speak out against traffickers who force human beings to work? Hmm. That’s interesting. Call it what you want. I’m a human being who isn’t going to stand by while others are exploited. I have no agenda. I just want people to think about the issue of human trafficking.

Here’s a question for you. Why don’t adults who want to sell themselves do so on an adult entertainment website? Why are they on a community website like Craigslist?

Dave (user link) says:

re: Real name?

I didn’t call you a moral crusader, but if the shoe fits…

In my experience, the anti-prostitution groups all seem to adhere to the same philosophy:

1. First and foremost, prostitution is the main enemy and when it comes to eradicating it, the ends justifies the means (even if it entails exploiting people’s natural compassion for children or trampling the First Amendment). They like to use the word “trafficking” because it helps inflate the numbers (prostitution is a subset of trafficking) and takes attention off the fact that it’s really all about prostitution.

2. No one is a prostitute voluntarily, so they are all forced. Aside from being patently ridiculous, it’s an insult to women that they are thought of as so weak minded that they can’t possibly have decided to sell sex for money simply because they prefer it over other alternatives.

Much of the statistical information about prostitution comes from that part of the profession that the police most commonly interact with. When a women is arrested for prostitution, she is far more likely to claim she was forced into it than proudly boast that it’s her preferred line of work. She’s looking for leniency and sympathy. She’s going to say she was a victim if it benefits her.

3. Almost all prostitutes are children or began as children (children sometimes being defined as under 25 years old). Simply a way of exaggerating the numbers (which are almost always nothing more than guesses) of children involved to get public attention.

4. Anyone who profits from the work of a prostitute is a pimp or trafficker or exploiter of women/children. By the crusader’s definition of “exploited” we are all exploited since someone somewhere is making a profit off of our labor. Furthermore, we are all “forced” to do what we do simply because we don’t have the choice to just stop if we want to keep paying our rent and putting food on the table. But, when it comes to prostitution, an exploiter can be anyone who merely rents a prostitute a room or shuttles them to their next client.

5. They rescue “victims”. The efforts of most anti-prostitution groups are first and foremost political organizations and not rescue groups. They promote harsher laws and encourage more aggressive enforcement.

I could go on, but the real evidence that crusaders aren’t really interested in helping women and children is simply the fact that they do not limit their focus to those who need help. The crusaders self righteously target adult women who voluntarily make a living from sex work (which is why they demand the closing down Craig’s List adult section completely).

Someone who was really interested in “rescuing” women and children would be campaigning to legalize prostitution and get it out of the criminal underground and into the light of day where it will receive the same regulation and oversight that all businesses are subject to. If you were really interested in women, you would want prostitution legal so a woman who gets assaulted by a client can file a complaint without herself being charged. You would be arguing for safer working conditions. Making something illegal is not the way to encourage ethical behavior. Once you make a pimp into an outlaw, you have lost all control over what he does. So don’t act all surprised that they aren’t being more responsible in who they recruit. But, of course, the welfare of women sex workers isn’t all that high on your list of priorities, is it?. Eradication is what you’re after.

Lili Balfour says:

re: Real name?

Are you serious? So many hysterical assumptions, I don’t even know where to start.

How exactly am I anti-prostitution? I’m against slavery, not the people who make their own choice. I’m anti-human trafficking. I am concerned with the growing trend of sex trafficking / slavery of young girls and the poor.

Last week, I was speaking with a young girl (18 not 25) who came to a group that helps sexually exploited youth. She came to us hoping to help other girls who were in her situation. We did not lure her or drag her off the street. We are not “rescuing” anyone. We are trying to provide more opportunities for those who are exploited. She explained to me how none of the girls want to be out there. They are out there because they have no other opportunities. They have no family. There are no jobs for them. Yet, there are adult men aggressively recruiting them into the sex industry. They don’t get the money, but they take all the risk. The risk of arrest. The risk of being robbed or raped. The risk of disease. And most importantly they live with the nightmares of being forced to have sex with 10 men a night.

I am for decriminalization of sex workers. I don’t think a sex worker should fear arrest when reporting a rape or robbery. A tactic that traffickers use to intimidate their victims is to tell them that they will be arrested if they go to the police. That is wrong.

You form your opinions based on what is good for YOU. You are a sex worker, so you want to make sure nobody bothers YOU. Why don’t you try to look at this problem from the lens of an 18 year old girl who is being sexually exploited by a 30 year old pimp?

Dave (user link) says:

Re: re: Real name?

You said: “I am for decriminalization of sex workers.”

Good. I’m all for that. I wonder how many of those who are clamoring to shut down Craig’s List are equally enthusiastic about legalizing prostitution. My guess is very very few.

You said: “You form your opinions based on what is good for YOU. You are a sex worker, so you want to make sure nobody bothers YOU.”

I am an engineer. Not a sex worker. But, like a sex worker, I support a family, pay taxes, and vote. And like them, I earn a living from the labor of my body. In my case, it’s my brain, but for others it’s their muscles, their athletic ability, or their good looks.

Thanks for the examples. I don’t dispute that there are girls who are forced into prostitution. It’s sad and those who do it should be investigated and appropriately charged. But I have no sympathy for those who use that as a excuse to tyrannize and persecute adults who merely engage in voluntary transactions involving sex and money. Craig’s List is not the villain here. Craig’s List is facilitating free speech which is guaranteed to adults under the First Amendment.

By the way, 18 is an adult. Not a child. At 18, a boy can be solicited to join the military and be sent off to die in some foreign dessert. We take it for granted that he has both the right and the intellect to make that decision for himself.

Lili Balfour says:

re: Real name?

Now, why do you “guess” that? Why don’t you learn more about the anti-trafficking movement? It has more to do with protecting vulnerable people than it does stopping prostitution.

Every single anti-trafficking group that I support advocates for better legislation for the victims of trafficking. Why would they not extend that same compassion to women (and men) who are stating that they want to be out there? Most anti-trafficking groups were founded by women (Norma Hoteling, Rachel Lloyd, Somaly Mam) who were at one time trafficked. It would be pretty heartless if they wanted current sex workers to be locked up without question. Maybe the people you see on the streets (or online) are not there on their own free will. Maybe, like the girl I mentioned, they really want to leave but have few options.

To answer your question, most anti-trafficking advocates that I’ve come into contact with believe in decriminalization. Instead of prosecuting women they should be provided with services.

The problem with Craigslist is that they have been asked several times to do something about youth sex trafficking on their site, yet victims are still popping up. If what they are doing isn’t working, they should just shut that section down.

btw – I didn’t refer to her as a child. I stated that she was a young girl. She was 14 when this whole ordeal began. So she would be defined as a sexually trafficked minor.

Anonymous Coward says:

well, the current laws, don’t due enough to stop it, they have failed over the last 50 or so years, so we should just execute them all, they obviously refuse to stop, wont get off the street when given the opportunity

cause you must move all these chil…young girls into your home and house cloth feed educate them

no where on CL do these ads say minors, children, come get your 10 year old escort, young girls maybe, but then again, you said young, was not a child, hypocrite much??

most of the moral crusaders are total failures, but they always keep fighting the good fight

some are forced, no argument there, but some are there because they want to be

yes we should probably legalize it, then ungodly regulate it, like other business’s, but then again, you would see a lot of the workers get off the street, when they have to get a drug test, be clean, pay for a license, pay taxes etc…

we have failed for over two thousand years to stop the prostitution, when will we do something different

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