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.