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An interesting Facebook page recently came to our attention, dedicated to the proposition that one can literally “stop human trafficking” by using eBay’s “family friendly” classifieds instead of craigslist.
eBay touts the advanced filtering technologies eBay employs to “make sure all of our categories and content are family-friendly,” technologies it no doubt applies to the “broader eBay Classifieds family including Gumtree, Marktplaats, Mobile.de and Loquo, which extends the reach of eBay Classifieds to more than 20 countries.”
As a practical example of eBay’s “advanced filtering” and “family friendly” classifieds, we’ve been shown some ads currently live on eBay’s Loquo.com classifieds site, which features thousands of paid ads offering various sexual acts in exchange for money (NSFW). The highly explicit photographs included in the following example ads depict young Asian females engaged in unprotected sex, along with rates and a listing of specific sex acts (in Spanish) on offer. DO NOT CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO VIEW HARD CORE PORNOGRAPHIC IMAGES OF UNPROTECTED SEX ACTS!
Ad Example #2 had been viewed by more than 10,000 users when the screen shot was taken. Appended to each “eroticos profesionales” ad is a lengthy explanation of how to get more “exposure” by paying additional fees to eBay. Linked below is a screenshot of such upsells, like “visibility pack”, “bump up”, “top ads”, “thumbnail service”, and “highlight a listing.” DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK UNLESS PREPARED TO VIEW HARD CORE PORNOGRAPHIC IMAGES OF UNPROTECTED SEX ACTS!
eBay acquired LOQUO in the Spring of 2005, as part of Meg Whitman’s classifieds acquisition strategy, at a time when its “eroticos profesionales” section was present, but with few ads or pictures. Changes would soon be afoot however, and Meg crowed about the growth and profitability of LOQUO on eBay’s Q2 2007 earnings call.
Today, 5 years into eBay’s “family friendly” management of this now very large business, and with eBay well aware of all the protective measures craigslist has implemented, there is no sign of eBay manually reviewing ads for content, instructing users to report suspected trafficking or exploitation of minors, or providing contacts for legal authorities or NGO hotlines. This despite the President of Spain calling for an advertising ban due to trafficking concerns in Spain. eBay does not appear to be doing phone verification or supporting parental control software either.
Some have scoffed at all of the industry-leading protective measures craigslist has taken with respect to adult services ads over the years, including a stringent manual screening process, and policies and procedures aimed specifically at combating exploitation and trafficking. It’s worth remembering what you get when all these measures are omitted. eBay’s LOQUO is a prime example. Here is another.
Meg Whitman didn’t mention eBay’s paid hard-core pornographic ads offering unprotected sex acts for sale to eBay investors when talking up the growth and profitability of LOQUO during eBay earnings calls, and I’m not aware that subsequent management has done so either.
Similarly, there is no reference to eBay classifieds depicting unprotected sex for sale with potentially underage and/or trafficked persons on the Stop Human Trafficking by Using eBay Classifieds Facebook page.
Nor is there any mention of the countless millions in eBay pornography sales revenue that earned Meg the nickname “Porn Queen.”
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.
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?
The office of Defendant McMaster proclaimed victory today:
More importantly, overnight they have removed the erotic services section from their website, as we asked them to do. And they are now taking responsibility for the content of their future advertisements. If they keep their word, this is a victory for law enforcement and for the people of South Carolina.
Nicely spun, perhaps by trash-talking McMaster PR operative Trey Walker (@treywalker), who reportedly was investigated by the SC State Law Enforcement Division for election fraud in connection with Defendant McMaster’s 2002 campaign:
“I’m embarrassed about it,” Walker said. “I’ve embarassed my family, my friends, my employer, my clients. It was stupid and silly.”
Speaking of elections, here is Defendant McMaster celebrating another important victory in The Post and Courier, the publishers of which he recently condemned as criminals.
That’s just blatant outright lying now. Craigslist made those changes last week, and at the time McMaster’s response was: “That response doesn’t work” and claimed it was proceeding with plans to punish Craigslist management with jail time. Since then, Craigslist has made no other change, other than to sue McMaster. To suddenly claim that it’s made a new change and is taking the matter seriously, when the only change is suing McMaster, is quite the delusional response. I have no idea how likely it is that McMaster will win his current race for the Governor’s spot in South Carolina — but so far the man has been an embarrassment to the state.
Now we hear that McMaster is calling the Craigslist suit “good news,” which is befuddling because the S.C. taxpayers are likely going to have to pony big bucks to pay for the Craigslist legal bills (unless McMaster backs down right away), which can easily run $250,000 or more.
“The bottom line here hasn’t changed since McMaster decided to start his grandstanding: Craigslist is constitutionally protectedfrom having liability for content placed on its site by users”
Dear South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster,
Two days ago you accused craigslist, and me personally, of engaging in criminal acts, reiterating your previous threat to file unwarranted and unconstitutional charges against us that are clearly barred by federal law. As you put it, “We have no alternative but to move forward with criminal investigation and potential prosecution.”
These very serious allegations followed the dramatic changes we implemented last week, widely applauded by other Attorneys General, that go far beyond the policies and procedures you yourself personally endorsedjust 6 months ago, as indicated by your signature on the Joint Statement.
Many prominent companies, including AT&T, Microsoft, and Village Voice Media, not to mention major newspapers and other upstanding South Carolina businesses feature more “adult services” ads than does craigslist, some of a very graphic nature. For a small sampling, look (careful NSFW)here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.
Have you fully considered the implications of your accusations against craigslist? What’s a crime for craigslist is clearly a crime for any company. Are you really prepared to condemn the executives of each of the mainstream companies linked above, and all the others that feature such ads, as criminals? craigslist may not matter in your world view, despite our popularity among your constituents, but mightn’t you want an endorsement from any of the SC newspapers for your gubenatorial campaign, whose publishers you’ve just labeled as criminals? Do you really intend to launch a criminal investigation against the phone company? What about potential new jobs connected to big data center buildouts in SC by Internet companies? Are you *sure* you want to prosecute all of their CEOs as criminals???
If you are threatening our founder Craig Newmark, a board member with no operational role at craigslist other than as a customer service representative, then you are expanding your list of “criminal suspects” to include thousands of employees at the above-named companies, or the companies’ boards of directors, or both.
Mr McMaster, I strongly recommend you reconsider and retract your remarks, and positively affirm that you have no intention of launching criminal investigations aimed at any of these upstanding companies, because in truth none of them are deserving of such treatment. Certainly when it comes to craigslist, by any objective standard your threats and accusations are unreasonable and unfair:
- threats of criminal prosecution are utterly unwarranted by the facts
- the charges threatened are unconstitutional and barred by federal law
- our adult ad screening regimen is stricter than the one you endorsed
- our adult services ads are fewer and tamer than other SC venues
We’re willing to accept our share of criticism, but wrongfully accusing craigslist of criminal misconduct is simply beyond the pale. We would very much appreciate an apology at your very earliest convenience. As I’m sure would all of the other fine companies whose executives you’ve called out as criminals.
We look forward to meeting with Attorney General Madigan to discussprogress made since our Joint Statement last November, and to hear any and all ideas she and others may have that could help reach our shared goal of eliminating illegal activity from craigslist, while preserving all of the functionality and positive attributes that are currently enjoyed by the overwhelmingly law-abiding craigslist community of users.
We again extend our heartfelt condolences to the Olson family, and are thankful that justice has been served in the courtroom, so that the focus for all those who cared for Katherine can now rightfully return to the celebration of her life, and the inspirational example that she (and her entire family) have set for us all.
A memorial concert in Katherine’s honor entitled A Tribute to Katherine: Letting Her Light Shine, which is happening on May 3rd in Minneapolis, will raise money for a scholarship fund in her name at St. Olaf College. More details are available here: