Canada Continues To Grandstand Over Craigslist Adult Services

from the grandstanding dept

Last month, we noted that some Canadian politicians were jumping on the censor Craigslist bandwagon, though some pointed out in our comments that the politicians in question actually had little influence. However, it looks like those who actually are in power are jumping onto the same grandstanding train. Canada’s Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, has now demanded that Craigslist censor its adult services section — and he does so with statements that are blatantly intellectually dishonest:

“With respect to newspapers, there are editors, I am sure, who take precautions to make sure they?re not getting into the business of child exploitation or human trafficking and so on” in their classified ads, Mr. Nicholson said after the Conservative caucus meeting on Wednesday. “It seems to me with Craigslist there’s no regulation at all as to what goes on.”

Except, most of that is inaccurate or misleading. Newspapers work on an entirely different scale and different model than Craigslist, which just acts more as a platform. Second, there is quite a bit of “regulation,” it’s just that this doesn’t sound good, so Nicholson apparently decides to ignore it. Nicholson also claims he’s going to introduce new legislation “that would create two new offences under the Criminal Code to close loopholes in Canada’s laws against child pornography.” If he’s complaining about Craigslist and talking about loopholes, that sounds like that new legislation may create secondary liability for platform providers. Hopefully someone can explain to Nicholson the ridiculous unintended consequences of such secondary liability, which would create massive liability for an awful lot of the internet.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: craigslist

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Canada Continues To Grandstand Over Craigslist Adult Services”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Freak says:

Thanks for the update

Emails sent. I know a few people in his riding who’ll be glad to send him angry emails. CBC was mostly vague on that point, and it makes it sound as though he’s against people communicating with other people/children online in order to facilitate child prostitution.

Which is all very well and good, but blaming craigslist instead of cragislist users . . .

Honestly, I’m not surprised to see that come out of Ontario or the conservative party. And if you look at the history, a lot of bad laws & ideas have been unveiled by Mr. Nicholson . . .

Anonymous Coward says:

He may be exaggerating a little, but he still touches a sensitive cord that must be addressed. Just because they only “provide a service” doesn’t mean anything can go on un-regulated.

@Freak .. why blame the users when the service provide offers the service in the first place? The users will only take what’s for the taking. If you don’t offer it in the first place, users will not use it … And I know you’ll just say “they’ll grab it somewhere else” but in this case it’s a stretch, since almost no one offers the same “services”.

Freak says:

Re: Re:

Okay, AC. I’ll pretend you’re merely ignorant and are in need of informing.

1)For other websites: just do a google search for “erotic classified ads -craig”.
2)Look in the yellow pages for “escort services”
3)Think about prostitution being around before the internet.

If almost no one offers the same services, I wouldn’t expect:

1) To find exactly the same services in other places online
2) To find exactly the same services have been in existence before the internet
3) To find that the business was not impossible before the internet, but did, indeed, have other methods of marketing and intermediates such that it could independently form across the globe.

The services that Nicholson is saying that he is against are some forms of the prostitution business. Craigslist is not in the prostitution business. In any form.

And even were it a pimp in some abstract form, which it absolutely is not, then it still would be pretty much one of the better pimps around since it doesn’t abuse its prostitutes in any way, shape, or form. Which means that even were I to give you the idea that it might possibly be a pimp, still doesn’t fulfil the criteria that Nicholson says he is against.

Freak says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And that’s why we see ads for “massage parlours”. It doesn’t even hinder them to have such regulations, (Or for that matter, ‘escort services’ in the yellow pages, as previously mentioned).

It does, however, hinder law enforcement agents who can’t bust into a ‘massage parlour’ without proof prior to busting in.

As my local RCMP will tell you if you ask, they use craigslist to find people who advertise illegal things on craigslist, (which goes beyond just the erotic section). Those things would still happen in the absence of craigslist, (The crime rate hasn’t magically jumped since the internet’s existence), but it makes it easier for cops to find the people.

So explain to me, how is censorship the answer here? It hurts law enforcement and does not effect the offenders.

Freak says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And that’s if I give you that craigslist is less regulated than newspapers and magazines.

Craigslist adult services is neither anonymous nor unregulated. Credit cards and phone numbers are required to place ads and they cooperate with authorities.

What newspapers and magazines advertise is really down to their own regulation; Which can be surprisingly lax. They don’t have to cooperate with law enforcement agents until some sort of court action is taken, (IANAL), and in many cases, even when regulated, it can still be done anonymously.
As a result, I can open the classifieds of one of the local
tabloids, and be assured of finding at least one ad which may or may not be sexual advertising.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Re:

why blame the users when the service provide offers the service in the first place? The users will only take what’s for the taking. If you don’t offer it in the first place, users will not use it

By that logic: why take the time tracking down individuals responsible for crime when you can blame God for creating the Earth on which the crime was committed? No Earth, no crime. Budget problems solved world-wide.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He’s exaggerating a LOT. But it does whip up a storm in a teacup around people who don’t understand the Internet or Craigslist.

As for your second paragraph have a glance at personals, business personals, and various other classifications in most newspapers. And Nicolson is wrong when he indicates that editors are looking the ads, they do no such thing. Ad taking is often off shored, and within a limited number of no-nos anything goes. As to the services themselves, using the term loosely, what makes you think no one will offer an alternative to craigslist? They’re out there, you know.

The whole thing seems to be an appeal to the more true-blue, Toronto-the-good, pro censorship crowd in southern Ontario than anything else where it sells well.

Outside of the Toronto centric CBC, I can’t remember just where that pronouncement go a millisecond of traction here in BC.

It’s been noted elsewhere that this will probably do more harm that good to investigations into child exploitation as it drives it further underground than it already is.

Then again, I’m probably responding to someone from the part of the world that banned “The Tin Drum”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d like to remind everyone of Danah Boyd’s excellent article which painstakingly explains how all of this stupid grandstanding is actually making things much worse for the abused people in question.

I’m not sure whether the politicians doing this sort of thing are knowingly stepping on those people in order to gain power, or just ignorant of the issues they’re writing laws about. Not that either of those is a sign of a good elected official, mind you…

Freak says:

Re: New laws

Ian, I think none of us disagree with what Nicholson says he is against, or what he says the bills are for.

Our problem is in the execution. There are four possibilities:

1)He doesn’t understand the issue
2)He understands the issue, but it doesn’t sound glamorous enough, and he’d rather pass legislation that sounds like one thing and is really another so he can be reelected rather than be honest.
3)He understands the issue, but does not have the same viewpoint as the majority of viewers, and understands this, so he is purposely misleading in order to get his legislation passed while it looks like something else.
4) He does actually understand the issue and is acting on it honestly.

Now which of these do you think are likely if he’s coming out to say that Cragslist should censor its erotic section?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: New laws

1) prohibiting the use of telecommunications to plan a sex offence
2) providing sexually-explicit material to a child to “groom” them for sexual purposes

Hooo kayyyy.. so never mind “around before the internet” of another comment, were now thinking we can prevent a “profession” that’s been around since…. well.. BC with a bit more law do we? We think that banning anything “naughty” will prevent children ever seeing anything bad do we?

Oh and if Mike’s right and thi is aimed at secondary liability laws, does that mean phone companies can be sued for providing a method of communication for arranging a paid-for sexual assignation? I’m pretty sure that’s one way it was done before the internet and I’d guess it still happens. It’s not a great stretch from 1 service providor to another is it?

I always find it ironic when politicians go on these “moral crusades” – I know a number of people who plausibly claim to… shall we say… “know” in the biblical a number of politicians who would say that this particular group is at least as, if not more, likely to make use of these services….

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: New laws

“1) prohibiting the use of telecommunications to plan a sex offence
2) providing sexually-explicit material to a child to “groom” them for sexual purposes”

It strikes me this is still grandstanding as the Criminal Code already prohibits this sort of activity without being quite as specific. Point (1) in particular.

I’m still unsure as to how a prosecution can actually prove point (2) in terms of gathering evidence but how that applies to craigslist or any other adult oriented advertising is beyond me.

Of course, just about any ad urging adults to visit Thailand ought to qualify given that country’s record in these things.

BruceLD says:


I am Canadian.

If my Canadian politicians force Craigslist to censor highly illegal activities, the politicians would be doing a great disservice to those that are affected by illegal activities. In addition, the police would have to look for their leads elsewhere because illegal activities would be driven underground and out of sight making it very difficult to investigate. There is also the public awareness and alerting factor. Ordinary citizens are probably more likely to report illegal activities to the police.

I am completely against pedophiles and other similar distasteful activities. I am against driving it underground where such activities can go on freely to avoid detection. Let the exploiters wave it openly and publicly, and let law enforcement take out the trash. If the public can not see such activity, they obviously will not be able to report it to the police.

Angry Puppy (profile) says:

It's Just Cheap Posturing

“I’m doing it for the children…”

This is the standard career bull of the disingenuous and ineffectual politico. No one can criticize them without being rebuked as a pedophile sympathizer and nothing really happens except tax dollars are spent, time is wasted, and real (but controversial) issues are ignored all while appearing to act in the interest of the taxpayer. It’s the politician’s perfect way of faking activity and getting funding and more staff (bigger staff numbers and budget of your department make you more important in Ottawa).

Dr. Danah Boyd’s article is, in my opinion, correct in that censoring CL will result in placing power into the hands of the pimps and exploiters by removing easy and safer communications between sex trade workers and clients. Above ground, public advertising also, obviously, allows the police to monitor and track activities.

Prostitution in Canada is legal. There is even a tax code category for it (escorts 812990, Everything surrounding it is illegal including “communication for the purpose of” although ads for escorts and massage parlors appear in most major papers and phone directories.

Justice Minister Nicholson will argue he is only wanting to stop underage and human trafficking activities that use CL. Well, the latest human sex trafficking busts in Vancouver seemed to have been done using CL to track the suspects (

It’s not all bad in Canada. A detective in BC made a statement supporting CL:
and BC Solicitor General Mike de Jong seems to be negotiating with Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster in making it easier to track criminals using CL: and Buckmaster is obviously interested in cooperation:

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is simply trying to make the Harper government appear to be acting in best interests while doing nothing (or worse than nothing) at all.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: It's Just Cheap Posturing

To get a bit more serious, I suspect this is to appeal to the Tory “base” and to the blue-law crowd of all parties in the Metro Toronto area who are, even in this day and age, quite powerful.

As I noted it got the traction out here in BC of just another bemused look across the Rockies and wondering if the water is safe to drink in Ontario.

BC’s response has been far more mature and nuanced that anything Nicolson has been saying.

Jenna Purr (user link) says:

I'm an independent escort in the U.S.

I have advertised in my local newspapers both conservative and progressive, sleezy skin mags, high end skin mags, the yellow pages, yellow book, craigslist, backpage, eros,,

out of all those advertisers, only 2 websites know my real name and age.

the print advertisers never even asked me if i was 18yrs old, they just took the payment and the ad copy. i never had to show id and i didn’t even have to be the person who was in the ad…

call the business phone directory in your area and see for yourself how easy it is. if you’re a guy, call them and tell them that you want to buy a listing in their escort section for jenna purr. 602.487.7491. and go ahead through the payment process and let me know if you have any problems.


the newspapers here used to charge escorts $75-$150 week to advertise when all the other business service sections only had to pay $11-$22 to place an ad…. so when craigslist gave us free ads, we stopped paying to advertise in the newspapers.

so the newspapers got really upset that craigslist WASN’T exploiting us because that was a damn good racket they had.

now the newspapers here, and i’m sure your’s will do the same, are saying they wont take anymore escort ads because they dont want to be a part of trafficking.


when they make that announcement, take a look at their escort ad section a week prior to the announcement and then take a look at their escort section 8 years ago and you will see for yourself, in black in white, the exploitation they are so concerned about.

newspapers own politicians and politicians own newspapers but craigslist was neither and they were the only site that DIDN’T want to exploit us and in fact, they only started charging $5 for the ads because of political pressure forcing them to… the politicians said they had to charge a fee because then they could stop children from placing ads since a credit card account would be necessary….. so craigslist said ok but the money went to charity the first year….

Then the 2nd year, the charities starting sending it back and this literally FORCED craigslist to profit completely against their will.

this is a really amazing company. . amazing like no other company i’ve ever known before…. don’t let them destroy the 1 goddamn company in existence that cares more about people than money.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...