NY Times Picks Up On The Fact That Craigslist Has Become A Legal Bully Against Anyone Who Makes Its Site Better

from the sad-to-see dept

We’ve written a few times about how Craigslist, for all the good things it’s done over the years, has lately turned into a legal bully against any site that makes its offering more useful. That’s significant for a variety of reasons. First off, Craigslist’s own site continues to be woefully out of date, and increasingly less useful in its current form. But, more importantly, Craigslist has often led the charge for a more open internet, yet seems to react legally when such an open internet creates new and useful services built off its own work.

Even the NY Times is now taking note of Craigslist’s legal-bullying ways, even catching Craig Newmark himself (who I know and like) being less than forthright in how the company attacks all sorts of other sites with legal threats and lawsuits. First, it lists out a number of other threats that Craigslist has sent out over the years:

One, a site called Craigs Little Buddy, could search multiple Craigslist cities at once — a simple feature that Craigslist doesn’t offer. Another site, Craigsly, helped people set up e-mail alerts when a certain type of listing, like a specific car or apartment for sale, was posted in their area. Another, Ziink Craigslist Helper, which offered a free browser plug-in that made navigating listings easier, was also shut down by Craigslist lawyers.

Later, it notes that Craig has claimed that they only go after sites that “consume a lot of bandwidth.” That statement sounds slightly more defensible, even as bandwidth has gotten cheaper and cheaper over the years, and most crawlers really aren’t that intrusive. Also, if that were the case, why not first try expanding its robots.txt file to see if the crawlers respect that?

But, in this case, Craig is not being truthful. The lawsuit we wrote about last week, against Padmapper and 3taps, does not appear to involve companies that consume a lot of Craigslists’ bandwidth. 3taps claims that it actually pulls the data from Google’s cache, and PadMapper was using 3taps for its Craigslist data.

I have tremendous respect for Craig and CEO Jim Buckmaster for many of the things they’ve done over the years. And I’ve regularly defended them on Techdirt when others went after them for things. But I find these legal actions perplexing, at best. It’s one thing to not like others improving on your work. But to send the lawyers after them is just flat out bullying, from an organization who should know better.

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Companies: craigslist, padmapper

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Comments on “NY Times Picks Up On The Fact That Craigslist Has Become A Legal Bully Against Anyone Who Makes Its Site Better”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“why not first try expanding its robots.txt file to see if the crawlers respect that?”

Mike, are you that innocent? Do you think a site called “graigsly” is going to suddenly stop searching CL just because they put something in the robots.txt? wow.

I would love to live in your dream world. Is the sky green too?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Do you think a site called “graigsly” is going to suddenly stop searching CL just because they put something in the robots.txt?”

That’s when you break out the IP address blockade and publicly shame the offending party for ignoring the standard. As it stands, if Craigslist doesn’t update the robots.txt, basically they are giving explicit consent for being crawled.

Standards exist for a reason, and people like you undermine the standard. What’s your next big idea? Tearing down STOP signs because some “gregsly” guy is just going to ignore it?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh, please.

The suggestion was to try that first. What’s the harm? If they don’t respect robots.txt, then move on to more draconian blocking.

Apparently in your world, if you have problems with people walking through your backyard then your first move would be to shoot at them rather than, say, put up a fence. Because we all know they would just climb the fence anyway.

I’m very glad I don’t live in your world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And people use those other services because they are adding value. If all they were doing was “stealing” data, then no one would have a reason to go to them instead of Craigslist. But they have a reason, because Craig isn’t providing it, so he’s called in the lawyers to save himself from having to innovate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Or you could just, you know, not visit this site anymore instead of not actually telling Mike how to make the site better. Which is what you should do. Instead of just criticizing. And before you say, “but Mike doesn’t do that himself,” let me add that he indeed does that very thing. Offers ideas and advice on how to improve a plethora of situations/products/business. Do people have to listen? No, which is their prerogative. But he’s not just pulling a you and saying, “Your business sucks.” Or, “Your product sucks.”

Your comments bring to mind a partial meme. “Your comment is bad and you should feel bad.”

Anonymous Coward says:

OffTopic / OnTopic - So, what's next for CNN?

A very lot is maid about MPAA and RIAA but very little is ever noted about the big picture.

The noted article only provides a slightly bigger picture it does not explain the motivations of those ultimate responsible or even identify who they are but it does enlarge the picture by tying CNN, Times Warner, and AOL together.

So, what’s next for CNN?
Michael Wolff on Media and Modern Life

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wow. It appears they are getting to cheap to even pay for their spam/adhom-bots to function properly now. Or should I say “kroperly kay kor kheir kpambots ko kunction kroperly”?

It’s BASICALLY with a B. MAKING with an M. And PIRATE with a P. Just fyi.

The letters you seek, while relatively close to that magical “k”, are in no way click/hittable by mistake. Your finger movements would be noticeably different enough to realize you hadn’t actually hit any of the correct keys. Also, just fyi.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Or you could look at the comment I posted in reply to your first one, where I pointed out that rather than bitch about Mike’s website over this and that you could tell him how to make it better. Or just stop visiting the site. Either works well. Although the former is more productive and beneficial to everyone (then again, the latter seems to be that too).

You know, actually read ALL the responses to your stupidity rather than just fly into an internet rage.

You guys are too cute though. Insult others. Leave. Others come and point out how you can’t spell correctly and try to be courteous to you (as my previous reply was) and you flip out and start saying how all I’m doing is bitching about spelling. The irony is lost on you, isn’t it? To clarify, it’s ironic that you’re saying all I can do is bitch about your spelling when all you can do is bitch about Mike’s articles. Without making anything in the way of a constructive comment towards said articles. And, for the record, I completely disagree with you. Just on principle, because I try not to ever disagree with ignorant, angry douchebags.

Vic B (profile) says:

Re: You underestimate the power of the dark side...

I really like this, is it haiku? So powerful! Never mind that it doesn’t ryhme, you made your point short, cut.

Innovation is hard work, try it sometime. If you ever catch it, give it away to those whose business skills will get them wealth and fame while you watch it run away.

Then sit by the warm rock and repeat your psalm in a loop.

Joe says:

ok, I’m going to step in, put on some armour and defend Craig Newmark here.

The whole mantra of Craigslist is ‘local’. I have an old PS3 game and a guy can swing by and take it off my hands. They don’t want to be eBay. A lot of these 3rd parties are trying to do layered add-ons to accomplish this. Now I’m going to have people in all parts of the world contacting me, asking about shipping etc.

I haven’t seen them go after housingmaps.com which has been around for years because they don’t interfere in the local nature of the site. Now some of these sound a little suspect – such as the email alert system. That does not seem to harm anything unless they were suspecting it was going to be used to give pro buyers an advantage over regular buyers.

In the end, I see this as Craig trying to stop people from changing the site into something he doesn’t want it to be. I don’t agree with how he’s doing it, but I understand why.

Joe Publius (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you’re totally right. There was a WIRED article from a few years back now that essentially said the same thing. Craigslist has a specific mission and vision in mind, and Newmark is going to stick with it no matter what. If Craigslist is going to change in any way Craig wants to be the one to do it, for better or worse, and if it does happen it will likely be to serve that vision of a local, and simple service.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

An entrenched corporate interest is refusing to give customers what they want but suing anybody who tries to innovate around them while becoming increasingly outdated and irrelevant.

Sounds like Mr. Newmark has turned into the RIAA’s little brother.

Someday somebody is going to get fed up, start an innovative competing service and eat his lunch. Of course, he’ll probably sue.

Anonymous Coward says:

The facist underbelly of Craigslist

This type of behavior by Craigslist is not a surprise. Has anyone else ever had problems trying to post a classified?

I was selling a car once and my add kept being rejected after a day or so. After delving into the recommended help forum to figure out what the problem was, I learned that the ‘Craigslist community’ is basically a group of self righteous rejects that are patrolling to site to eliminate anything they do not like.

You refer to yourself as ‘suicide-girl type’ in your personal add? Rejected because it’s to presumptuous. Want to list your motorbike (or car) for a price you think is fair? Rejected – on Craigslist people only want cheap deals.

I know these people do not work for the site but they are part of it’s culture. Craigslist ‘peace sign’ is as gimmicky as Google ‘do no evil’.

Craiglist the lawn jart of online growth says:


we have thrown our resources behind backpage classifieds, the interface is cleaner and less strictly monitored and yes, less traffic. Craigslist reminds me of college dorm mother who cannot stand the fact that those who are furthering their education (profits) could consider anything fun, exciting or daring. Their algorithms catch the innocent in great numbers while trying to omit the few morons who spam. Its tiring and worthy of a serious technological upgrade. And if anyone can do it, its the respected brains of the very subject of this article. Bullying won’t last long, it will probably be effective but its certainly not progress.

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