Advocate Indeed

August 12, 2010 by

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.

Response to AK and MC Ads

August 9, 2010 by

To AK and MC:

We saw your recent half-page newspaper advertisements in the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle. Hearing your accounts of being victimized by criminals who you mention also misused our site, we are anxious to know that the perpetrators are behind bars. Would you or the advocacy groups who placed the ads please let us know where the police reports were filed? We have been unable thus far to identify police reports matching the crimes you describe. If craigslist was misused, we want to learn more so we can improve our preventative measures. If anyone committing such crimes has not yet been apprehended and prosecuted, we want to do everything in our power to assist the police in making that happen. You can send the information to legal@craigslist.org. We work with law enforcement to bring to justice any criminals foolish enough to incriminate themselves by misusing our site, and want to make sure everything possible has been done in your cases.

craigslist is used by more than 50 million Americans to facilitate billions of interactions each month, and criminal misuse of the site is quite rare. We are dedicated to eliminating it entirely however, and in this regard we have been working for years to ensure that craigslist is very much part of the solution to crimes such as trafficking and exploitation of minors. In November 2008, we issued a Joint Statement with 40 Attorneys General and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, describing an array of measures to prevent misuse of craigslist. In May 2009 we went beyond those measures and implemented manual screening of each adult services ad. Based on the time period mentioned in your newspaper ads, it appears the events you describe may have occurred before manual screening was implemented.

craigslist is one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation. We’ve been told as much by experts on the front lines, many of whom we have met with in person, and many of whom have shared helpful suggestions we have incorporated in our approach. Even politicians looking to advance their careers by publicly criticizing us grudgingly admit (when pressed) that we have made giant strides, and that craigslist is virtually alone among advertising venues in vigorously combating exploitation and trafficking.

For example, 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 anti-trafficking/exploitation resources
* creating specialized victim search interfaces for law enforcement
* 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 prior to posting
* requiring phone verification for every adult service ad
* implementing the PICS content labeling system

We are not content however, and are committed to making further progress. Specific information about the outrageous misuse of our site you describe in your advertisements will help prevent such crimes in the future.

 

Trading Post

July 29, 2010 by

Enterprising CL user Steven Ortiz has reportedly traded his way up from an old cell phone to a porsche in Glendora, CA.

Not bad, although fellow barterer Kyle MacDonald traded up from a red paper clip to a house in Saskatchewan in 2008.

Hmmm, wonder what I could get for 10 tea bags of rich, robust Guayaki fair trade Yerba Maté?

A2 Now Free to Love CL

July 28, 2010 by

As a long-time Ann Arbor resident, I enjoyed this A2 journalist’s paeon to CL, including this nugget:

Like a bottle of Kaopectate, you may not use Craigslist on a regular basis. But it’s good to know it’s there when you need it.

Hopefully this won’t spark a “run” on bismuth subsalicylate.

Sea Wall For Sale (Vancouver)

July 15, 2010 by

Stanley Park Sea Wall is for sale — no reasonable offers refused.

Free salmonberries included if you act now.

Get a jump on global warming!

Mere Happenstance?

May 18, 2010 by

Here are the top 5 search providers, as ranked by Comscore for March 2010. Just for fun I’ve added % growth since January 2009, when Jeremy Zawodny(formerly at Yahoo) replaced craigslist’s old search architecture:

1. Google 13,996,000,000 19%
2. Yahoo 2,839,000,000 -5%
3. Microsoft 1,883,000,000 58%
4. Ask 719,000,000 11%
5. craigslist 685,000,000 38%

Wonder how CL would rank if we were actually in the search business?

CL SJM seeks SCOTUS nominee

May 17, 2010 by

craigslist TV

May 14, 2010 by

Sample below, lots more at craigslist channel on YouTube

CO Lt Governorship up for grabs

May 13, 2010 by

In regard to the responses his ad has generated so far, he resists breaking down percentages by serious inquiries versus goofs. “That’s a judgment call, right?” he asks, laughing. But he’s been impressed with the quality of quite a few contacts — although, thus far, the best of the batch are folks who weren’t listed as independents prior to the aforementioned deadline. “They’ll say, ‘I’m registered as a Republican, but I’ll switch,’” he allows. “And unfortunately, that won’t work.”

However, he’s got around fifteen new submissions he hasn’t had a chance to examine thus far, giving him confidence that he’ll find a worthy running mate by his planned announcement press conference, slated for 5 p.m. Friday, May 28

http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2010/05/11/candidate-seeks-running-mate-on-craigslist

http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2010/05/craigslist_ad_want_to_run_for.php

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/10/jason-clark-colorado-gube_n_570040.html

An Open Invitation to Rachel Lloyd

May 11, 2010 by

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.

 


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