Buzz on street has it that cicada MC ads are on the rise.
Archive for the ‘Harrassment’ Category
Site-scraper seeks to undermine Internet safety by instructing users to ignore safety guidelines
Classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity.
If you strip away the false (and defamatory) paid-for editorial however, and look at the numbers AIM uses, a very different story emerges.
AIM group “documents” 330 crimes that it says occurred in connection with use of CL in the US over a 12 month period. Sounds scary until you compare that number to the 570 million classified ads posted by 100 million or more US craigslist users during that same time span, generating literally BILLIONS of human interactions, many involving face-to-face meetings between users who do not know one another.
AIM Group facetiously writes “we understand thousands or even tens of thousands of transactions happen safely between Craigslist aficionados.”
THOUSANDS??? Shame on you AIM Group (and Oodle). You know better. Try hundreds of millions or billions of safe transactions. How does the self-proclaimed “bible of the classifieds industry” arrive at a range that underestimates the transaction volume of CL by 5 or more orders of magnitude (and declines to correct it) ? Well, when you’re paid to reach false conclusions about crime incidence, you’ve got little choice. If you accurately describe the transaction volume, you then have to admit that the incidence of crime is extremely low, and that’s not what those sponsor dollars were about. As Techdirt has noted, this “research” calls into question AIM Group’s entire value proposition:
As for the actual “research,” it seems laughable, at best, and should immediately raise questions about any AIM Group research. The “research” basically scoured news reports and found a grand total of 330 “crimes” in the past year that have some sort of loose connection to Craigslist. I have a hard time seeing how that makes it a “cesspool” of crime. That’s a very small number, especially considering the hundreds of millions of posts and transactions that take place via Craigslist.
James Temple at the SF Chronicle is reporting that, in terms of crime rate, or incidence of crime, craigslist is roughly 11,000 times safer than the city of Oakland. And as he has now updated, there is no reason to pick on his hometown of Oakland, the 11,000x incidence ratio would likely apply to any major city in the US. The point he is making is not the dangerousness of any given city, but the relative safety of craigslist.
Crime is rare on craigslist in part because criminals know that the electronic trail they leave there helps ensure their capture, and CL is unusually helpful and cooperative with law enforcement. The risk is not zero of course, andcommon sense precautions are in order when using craigslist, just as you would do at other venues or offline (where risks are arguably higher).
Since few have heard of it, its worth mentioning that Oodle is a classified ad scraper or aggregator, meaning it acquires its listings by scraping them or aggregating them from other sites. In fact we had to send them a cease-and-desist notice when they started scraping listings from craigslist in 2005.
AIM omits to mention craigslist is likely also safer than Oodle in terms of crime rate, or incidence of crime, when you compare the usage between the two sites. Spot checking of categories such as furniture, roommates, collectibles, baby/kid stuff, and bicycles for January showed craigslist having roughly 1000x times Oodle’s listings (and CL listings are posted by its users, not scraped from other sites). Some Oodle categories have more listings, but those are dominated by data feeds from a few large commercial entities.
Compete.com web traffic stats show CL with 550x Oodle’s page views.
Such that if so much as ONE (1) crime was connected with an Oodle listing over the past 12 months, the crime rate for Oodle would exceed by almost two times the crime rate that AIM Group claims for CL.
It’s kind of like comparing Pine Bluff Arkansas (pop 100,000) to the state of California (population 30 million) — yeah, California has far more TOTAL crime, but the INCIDENCE of crime (crimes per 100,000 people) is actually lower in California (522) than in Pine Bluff (946).
But of course, you don’t include such findings or perspective when your “research” is being bought and paid for by a client looking to tar an industry leader whose position it covets and envies.
Not content with defaming craigslist, AIM/Oodle recklessly misadvises that “the old rules — “meet in public;” “always tell someone where you’re going;” “know who you’re dealing with” — often don’t work on Craigslist.” This wildly false and irresponsible guidance is reinforced in a related press release, which says that “the old rules of ‘meeting in public’ and ‘knowing whom you’re dealing with’ no longer apply.”
Kind of like advising motorists that, because accidents are happening despite precautions, that the old rules about “observing speed limits” and “wearing your seat belt” and “don’t drink and drive” no longer apply.
I see you’ve now gotten around to requesting an interview with me or a company spokesperson, 90 days after you ambushed our namesake and founder, Craig Newmark, following his May 20th talk on veteran’s affairs and other issues unrelated to craigslist, at a conference in Washington.
You knew Craig was not in management or a company spokesperson, but setting CNN’s ethical code aside, you sidestepped company channels in favor of ambushing our semi-retired founder, complete with a misleading “set up” for your surprise questions. Now that CNN has aired your highly misleading piece dozens of times, mischaracterizing your stunt as a serious interview on this subject, and you’ve updated your “bio” to showcase this rare jewel of investigative journalism, you’re ready to try actually interviewing the company itself on this subject.
There is a class of “journalists” known for gratuitously trashing respected organizations and individuals, ignoring readily available facts in favor of rank sensationalism and self-promotion. They work for tabloid media. Your stunt has veteran news pros we know recoiling in journalistic horror, some of them chalking it up to a decline in CNN’s standards, which is unfortunate.
Seeing how you’ve pinned your career hopes on butchering this story, I’ll have to pass. If Anderson Cooper would like to come out to SF and sit with us for an interview worthy of CNN’s viewers, we’ll consider it.
Malika Saada Saar,
We saw your performance on CNN, and have read your recent letter.
You claim to be “appalled that [craigslist is] requesting the police reports from young victims as proof of their trauma.”
As you must know, because it was quite clear in my letter to you, we asked for the police reports for the **perpetrators** of these crimes, not for personal information about the victims.
We are stunned and appalled that, as an “advocate” for these young victims, you have chosen to provide the case information from the District Court of Maryland for one of the victims to CNN for display to its mass television audience and to the users of its website.
What possible reason could there be for doing such a thing? The case number was clearly displayed, and by doing so you have made the victim’s full name and other very personal details easily accessible to anyone who wants to look up her case, including to the criminals who victimized her.
For the victim’s sake, please work with CNN immediately to properly redact this court record (which we did not ask for), before the victim’s misfortunes are further compounded by your error in judgement, as well as CNN’s error in judgement in actually broadcasting this information.
In our view, victims of such crimes should not be arrested in the first place. It seems wrong to treat as a criminal the very victim of such a crime. In fact the case report you publicized reveals trial is pending against one of the victims, which seems very unfortunate indeed.
Returning to your conduct, that an “advocate” would display zero interest in the actual criminals who exploited these victims, or in the fact that the victims themselves are now being treated as criminals, choosing to focus instead exclusively on craigslist, strikes us as misguided at best. Obviously your financial backers had a very particular purpose in mind.
Regardless of what you believe about those issues however, we would like to think you would wholeheartedly agree that an “advocate” should not be gratuitously publicizing victims’ personal records for the “advocate’s” own purposes. Please address this critical error before it is too late.
Finally, please do respond to our request for the police reports of the criminals who you maintain misused craigslist in commercially exploiting these girls, so that we can make sure we have done everything possible to assist in bringing them to justice.
Although the person whose case information you displayed was actually nearly 19 at the time of her arrest according to the court record, and not underage as you had implied, and although these events took place before we implemented manual screening of ads, we would also like to be able to review these reports from the perspective of potentially further improving our preventitive measures.
True to form, CT AG Blumenthal is once again indulging in self-serving publicity at the expense of the truth and his constituents — touting a subpoena on television and telling whoppers about craigslist “reneging” on promises — even before craigslist had been served with a subpoena.
As AG Blumenthal knows full well, craigslist has gone beyond fulfilling its legal obligations, far beyond classifieds industry norms, has more than lived up to any promises it made, and working together with its partners is in fact a leader in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.
With his senatorial race in full swing however, AG Blumenthal won’t let the facts get in the way of a good photo op. Or as I heard while in his offices 2 years ago — “The most dangerous place on earth is getting caught between Dick Blumenthal and a television camera.”
There is a “campaign” on twitter currently demanding that all of craigslist personals be shut down.
If you follow links supplied by the twitterers echoing this demand, you’ll find a couple of themes:
- They recognize that “declassifying” adult services ads would simply push them back into the personals categories, therefore you need to eliminate all personals.
- They believe casual sex, and sex outside of marriage, is happening in CL personals. Such sex is evil. Therefore CL personals are evil. Shut down CL personals.
This twitter campaign echos reasoning we have previously heard from Attorneys General, at least one of whom also essentially demanded that all of craigslist personals be shut down.
As reported in Wired, craigslist personals are the most used personals site in the US, dwarfing the total combined usage of match.com and eharmony.com and yahoo personals. CL personals are highly valued by craigslist users (and by the general public) who use them to find friendship, love, romance, companionship, entertainment, and yes, “casual encounters.”
The twitterers do have a point – declassifying “adult services” on a free classifieds board likely necessitates removing all personals categories (and probably services categories as well). Some of them point to eBay’s kijiji.com, kijiji.ca, and gumtree.com sites, which recently eliminated all personals categories, as a model to be followed in this regard.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we embrace all criticism as useful in improving our approach. But cynical misuse of a cause as important as human trafficking as a pretense for imposing one’s own flavor of religious morality (”casual sex is evil”) strikes me as wrong on so many levels.
We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement and advocacy groups, and reach out to potential new ones, as we strive to do the best job we can in combating human trafficking, while preserving the full-fledged classifieds (complete with all of the free personals categories) that CL users (and the general public) want and deserve.
We’re receiving inquiries about the gross inaccuracies and absence of fact checking I cited in Monday’s New York Time article by Brad Stone. There are quite a few, but I’ll start walking through them. Let’s start with this one:
The ads, many of which blatantly advertise prostitution, are expected to bring $36 million this year, according to a new projection of Craigslist’s income.
Each ad submitted to “adult services” on CL is manually screened by one or more human reviewers. Ads that “blatantly advertise prostitution” are summarily rejected. The phrase “many of which blatantly advertise prostitution” is so patently false (and damaging) that another phrase comes to mind – “actionably defamatory”. In fact, the NY Times article probably violated multiple tenets of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics. More on that later.
Although you won’t find them in CL “adult services,” there are plenty of places where such ads *can* be found in great abundance.
For example, most if not all adult service ads featured by The Village Voice’sbackpage.com (which carries more adult ads than CL in most US cities) would be rejected by our manual reviewers — and in fact, quite a few of them, if submitted to CL, would be reported by our reviewers to NCMEC’s cybertipline.
Here’s an ad with photos (NSFW) of bare genitalia (CL reviewers reject ads with nude pictures), describing specific sex acts offered (CL reviewers reject ads with sexual language or code words):
Watch closely as i bounce my fat luscious, juicy apple bottom booty up & down ure big c*ck!!! 80Roses** Quk $e$$ion 100Roses** Half Hr 140Roses** Full Hr200 Roses.
This ad offers “greek” in exchange for 100 “kisses” in the ad title (CL reviewers reject such ads):
The following ad, if submitted to CL’s review team, would have been reported to NCMEC’s cybertipline:
my parents are at work and im all alone jus waiting for someone to cum inside and invade my young, barely legal, juicy, suculant love nest.
I’m now hearing that AG Blumenthal was quite taken aback this morning when a CNN reporter had the audacity to ask him why he was spending all of his time on craigslist when Village Voice carries more adult ads of a far more graphic nature — but does not manually screen them or take any of the other steps CL does to combat trafficking.
Senatorial candidate AG Blumenthal hemmed and hawed (as he’s done for the past year) but really does not have a good answer for this question.
Senatorial candidate CT AG Blumenthal is again pointing a misguided finger of blame at a faithful partner of law enforcement.
Misuse of craigslist for criminal purposes is utterly unacceptable, and craigslist continues to work with its partners in law enforcement and at NGOs to eliminate it. Among the many steps CL has taken that collectively set it far ahead of the countless other companies accepting adult service ads (including many among the Fortune 500) when it comes to combating crime:
- educating and encouraging CL users to report trafficking/exploitation
- prominently featuring a directory of trafficking/exploitation resources
- providing specialized anti-trafficking tools for law enforcement
- providing support for law enforcement anti-crime sweeps and stings
- actively participating in NCMEC’s cybertipline program
- meeting regularly with experts at NGOs and in law enforcement
- manually reviewing every adult service ad submitted
- requiring phone verification for every adult service ad
- implementing the PICS content labeling system
craigslist figures in newspaper “crime stories” periodically in part because it is extremely law enforcement friendly — we are known for our responsiveness to law enforcement inquiries, and we actively assist in sweeps and stings — and those foolish enough to misuse the site in connection with crime are disproportionately likely to get caught.
Of the thousands of US venues that carry adult service ads, including ones operated by some of our largest and best known companies, craigslist has done the best and most responsible job of combating child exploitation and human trafficking. Period. We would challenge anyone to find a company that goes anywhere near the lengths to which CL does.
Lagging behind (to mention but a few) are the large mainstream internet portals, the major search engines, large telephone companies (yellow pages), major newspapers, chain operators of alternative weeklies, etc — which derive vastly more revenue from adult service ads than craigslist, while doing far less than craigslist to combat exploitation/trafficking.
Better questions for AG Blumenthal — questions I understand he is finally starting to be asked — where is his “outrage” toward all of these companies? Why does he continue to offer a free pass to larger venues that have yet to take any of the positive steps CL has already taken? Why continue to scapegoat craigslist?
The grandstanding of some Attorneys General never ceases — even when they created the “problem” they’re now grandstanding against. Case in point: Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and his crusade against Craigslist.
Blumenthal acted irresponsibly when he put bogus grandstanding pressure on Craigslist to put in place the tollbooth in the first place. At what point does he recognize that Craigslist isn’t the target here. It’s the people using Cragslist to break the law — and that Craigslist is more than willing to help law enforcement track down those law breakers
As always, the Techdirt user comments are worth reading as well.
Speaking of which, if you can get past the gross inaccuracies and apparent absence of fact-checking in Brad Stone’s NYTimes piece, there are some interesting user comments there as well:
Citizens would be better served if law enforcement stopped wasting our money fighting against the very laws they are paid to enforce – the Communications Decency Act and the first amendment to the Constitution – and went after the real criminals who are committing crimes.
Law enforcement – from the attorneys general of the several states down to the local law enforcement agencies – are out to look like they are doing something by pandering to their perceived constituencies. They attack Craiglist, while ignoring others, because such attacks garner them a huge amount of publicity.
Why is Craigslist always singled out for this garbage? Craigslist provides one of the best and most valuable services on the internet. If newspapers wouldn’t have abused their customers for years by overcharging for simple ads, Craigslist wouldn’t be the success it is today. Organizations like the NYT and AIM Group won’t be happy until Craigslist is jacking people like the newsprint industry used to.
Noteable as this news cycle winds down ( “Craigslist Pwns McMaster,” “Pandering Has Its Price,” “Craigslist 1, McMaster 0,” “McMaster’s Final Humiliation” ) has been the absolute disinterest shown by politicians and journalists in hardcore sex-for-money ads featured in journalistic media, no matter how numerous or graphic they may be.
Here are a few out of tens of thousands of “escort ads” featured onbackpage.com adult classifieds owned by Village Voice Media, publisher of achain of weekly newspapers. (WARNING – EXPLICIT SEXUAL CONTENT):
- I am a nasty freaky girl who loves sucking cock (Chicago)
- An Irish blowjob and a cum showering rainbow (New York)
- Cum lay your hotdog on my bun for memorial day (Dallas)
- Doing men 18 to 65 with trucker parking (Toledo)
- Three holes anything goes $90 – GREEK included (New Jersey)
- Can u fuck my tight pussy hard ask for alexis – age 18 (Atlanta)
- Thick meaty transexual treat (Philadelphia)
- I luv 2 suk n fuk – age 18 (Phoenix)
- Deep throating full service freak (Orlando)
- I gotta big a$$ fat pu$$y big boobs need I say more (St Louis)
- Enjoy multiple orgasms with “Flavor” (Myrtle Beach, SC)
- Let me put you to bed backdoor available $80 (Columbia, SC)
- Ebony slut will blow u away wet n ready 4 u gfe (Greenville, SC)
UPDATE - Now deleted ads included photos of sex acts, and price quotes for: “GFE, BBBJ, CIM, greek, swallow, DATY, 69, facials, golden showers, anal”
UPDATE - Screenshot of ad cited above (CAUTION, EXPLICIT SEXUALITY)
These examples were “featured” ads for which Village Voice charged extra, such that this content presumably fell well within their guidelines.
It’s worth noting that these ads’ TITLES ALONE contain more explicit content than you will find in all craigslist adult service ads combined.
Could the blessing of politicos on voluminous pornographic sex-for-money ads in journalistic media have anything to do with the need for positive coverage and campaign endorsements from said media?
As for journalists, is it possible that criticizing craigslist is more career-friendly than taking their own employers (or publishing peers) to task?