Archive for the ‘People’ Category

An Open Invitation to Rachel Lloyd

May 11, 2010

I vividly recall meeting with Rachel Lloyd. Thanks to her story (and others I’ve been privileged to hear) we’ve vastly improved our approach to the point where an adult service ad submitted to craigslist today relating to an underage person like “Bethany” would be rejected by our reviewers, with an immediate report submitted to law enforcement, allowing the victim to be rescued, and the perpetrator to be removed from society.

Human trafficking and child exploitation are utterly despicable and horrendous crimes, absolutely beyond the pale. While quite rare on craigslist, any ad on our site in facilitation of such an unspeakable crime is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to work tirelessly with law enforcement to ensure that any such victim receives the assistance they deserve and that anyone responsible for such a crime is imprisoned.

Craig Newmark and I have been called communists and socialists for putting community ahead of financial considerations. After 15 years of focusing on public service, 50 million now rely on craigslist each month for their everyday needs. To the eternal amazement of financial analysts we have never sought to maximize our personal gain. Not because we’re saints, but because valuing service over money is more fulfilling and enjoyable, and has always felt like the right thing to do.

If we for one moment believed our labor of love was increasing the incidence of such a heinous crime or was contributing to the suffering of its victims, we would indeed have trouble sleeping. We have been accused of many things over our 15 year history, but having no conscience is not one of them. Viewed in light of our 15 year history, is it even plausible that we would be defending the approach we have taken, in the face of the sustained demonization of our efforts that is occurring, if we did not believe we were doing the right thing?

To the contrary, we are convinced craigslist is a vital part of the solution to this age old scourge. We’ve been told as much by experts on the front lines of this fight, many of whom we have met with in person, and many of whom have shared very helpful suggestions that we have incorporated in our approach. Even politicans looking to make their careers at the expense of craigslist’s good name grudgingly admit (when pressed) that we have made huge strides.

To our knowledge, only craigslist, out of countless venues, takes ANY of the following measures, let alone ALL of them:

  • educating and encouraging 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-trafficking sweeps and stings
  • actively participating in NCMEC’s cybertipline program
  • leading all awareness efforts for the National Trafficking Hotline
  • meeting regularly with experts at nonprofits 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

What these measures mean in practice is that those foolish enough to place ads on CL relating to trafficking and exploitation are caught by law enforcement, with lots of assistance from craigslist — hence the arrests you hear about.

Last year, when we began manual screening of adult services ads, those unwilling to subject themselves to  craigslist’s standards left in droves for the numerous venues which do not monitor ads.  This migration is a matter of public record. You do not hear about arrests connected to the vast majority of adult services advertising because those venues do not cooperate with law enforcement, and do not urge their users to be on the lookout for and report suspected trafficking and exploitation.

For the sake of rescuing the exploited and prosecuting those responsible, is it really a good idea to eliminate the only venue for adult service ads that is highly responsive to law enforcement? The only venue that seeks out nonprofit groups and readily adopts their suggestions? Would it not be a step backward to confine adult ads to venues that don’t cooperate with law enforcement, that don’t care what advocacy groups and nonprofits have to say? Quite a few concerned parties, including front line workers in this field, have told us it would.

craigslist started charging for “erotic services” at the repeated request of law enforcement, some of whom suggested fees of $100 or more. It was our idea to pledge net revenues to charity, an unprecedented pledge that no phone company or newspaper featuring adult ads ever took, and one which subjected us to significant state by-state regulatory burdens. This pledge was met with accusations of dishonesty, and ridicule that we thought any charity would want our “tainted” money. Can anyone blame us for announcing in May 2009 we would not repeat this pledge with adult services? As was made clear a year ago, craigslist will continue to engage in charitable giving, privately, and as we see fit.

As to the quote from my earlier blog entry cited by Ms Lloyd, describing a “cynical misuse of a cause as important as human trafficking as a pretense for imposing one’s own flavor of religious morality” — how should we interpret a fundamentalist twitter campaign citing human trafficking as a reason for shutting down all of the craigslist personals categories, which together make up by far the most used personals service in the world? Surely a more constructive approach can be found than demonizing tens of millions of users of craigslist personals users, and effectively trivializing the suffering of actual trafficking victims.

In serving our users and the public as best we can, craigslist has to balance an immense amount of passionate and often conflicting feedback, and at the end of the day do what our consciences tell us is right. Certainly the adult services arena has exemplified that. And while there are no perfect solutions to difficult societal problems, craigslist is indisputably the “corporate responsibility” leader among the countless companies large and small that offer adult services ads. We will not rest on our laurels however, and are committed to doing even better.

craigslist has come a long way since I last met with Ms Lloyd by video in 2008. I invite her to come meet with me in person, as so many other experts in this field have done, to learn more about our approach, and help us make further improvements. That’s how we’ve come this far, and it is our belief that by continuing to work together we will ultimately reach the goals all people of conscience share.

 

Deja Blumenthal

May 3, 2010

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.”

 

Shutting down CL personals

April 29, 2010

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:

  1. They recognize that “declassifying” adult services ads would simply push them back into the personals categories, therefore you need to eliminate all personals.
  2. 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.

 

Sad State of Affairs at the New York Times

April 28, 2010

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):

******Ev3Ry !!! M@N’s!///!!% W3tt ***Dre@M __ CuM%TruE*** – 24

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):

♥ ♥ SexY EXxXOTiC BuSTii B@RB!E (( g/r/3/3/k)) ♥ ♥ 100 kisses – 21

The following ad, if submitted to CL’s review team, would have been reported to NCMEC’s cybertipline:

** I JuST TuRNeD 18 YeSTeRDaYY** FiNaLLY LeGal – 18

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.

 

Misdirected Outrage

April 27, 2010

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?

Grandstanding Coverage

April 27, 2010

From Techdirt’s “Banging Your Head on the Virtual Wall Department” :

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.

Catapult Expert Sought for Rush Job

March 27, 2010

“Group of Investors looking for experienced carpenter to build over-sized catapult sturdy enough to fling Rush Limbaugh all the way to Costa Rica and help him make good on his promise to leave the country if the health care reform bill became law.”

Jessica Alba, CL enthusiast

January 21, 2010

The actress as quoted in a recent interview:

I’ve bought 70 percent of my house off Craigslist! I’ve found so many things: couches, tables, lamps. I love the idea of recycling furniture and there being a history there.

Google News

 

CoCo, “ripped,” goes casual

January 19, 2010

Tonight Show up for grabs!

January 15, 2010

Original CL ad is viewable here. Will go quickly, but would be purchasers note that “Buyer must honor Barry Manilow booking next Thursday”


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