Cook County Sheriff vs. Craigslist

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The Cook County Sheriff is suing Craigslist to force them to remove erotic services (i.e., prostitution) advertisements from the site:
"I've said all along that I'm not blaming them for prostitution," Dart said. "What I am blaming them for is that one part of their site is being horribly misused. Either shut that part of the site down or put some real monitoring in place."

Craigslist, the Web's biggest publication of classified advertisements, promised in November to begin cracking down on ads for prostitution after coming under fire by several state attorneys general.

"Misuse of Craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable, and we continue to work diligently to prevent it," said Susan MacTavish Best, a Craigslist spokeswoman. "Misuse of the site is exceptionally rare compared to how much the site is used for legal purposes. Regardless, any misuse of the site is not tolerated on Craigslist.

"Craigslist is an extremely unwise choice for those intent on committing crimes since criminals inevitably leave an electronic trail to themselves," Best continued. "On a daily basis, we are being of direct assistance to police departments and federal authorities nationwide."

I don't really understand Craigslist's argument here. A quick look at the erotic services ads makes it pretty clear that it's full of advertisements for prostitution. It's true that many of the advertisements don't explicitly quote prices, but some do and it's pretty clear what the rest are about. CL's rationale for offering this category of services is to facilitate legal services (escorts, massage, etc.) and I guess there is some plausible deniability that that's what these ads are for rather than for prostitution, but it's more of the "you can't be totally sure" variety than something you'd really believe. It's certainly true that it wouldn't be very convenient for CL to censor this section of their site—and the idea that users are going to do any censoring is pretty implausible. So, whatever CL's intentions, I think it's pretty clear that their system facilitates prostitution and that whatever measures they are taking aren't really sufficient to suppress it.

That said, it's quite possible that as CL claims, the CDA preempts state-level enforcement, so this may all be irrelevant.

5 Comments

CL's intentions are clear: this a a category where they make money. You have to pay them $5 to have an ad in this category, whereas most other non-jobs categories (even for non-erotic services such as computer technical) are free.

They're making a ton of money with the prostitution listings; they need to pour some of it into lawyers or drop the ads.

According to Craigslist, the credit card charges are used to verify the identity of people posting those ads, and 100% of the net proceeds are donated to charity.

Does everyone really believe that if CL removes the "erotic" category it will all go away? Such ads with just spread throughout the site into other categories. Here is an idea....Why doesn't law enforcement work harder at catching the criminals who exploit underage girls and pimps/prostitutes by using this as a tool to do so..... Or you can get rid of it so you can't see what is really going on out there...So you don't have to spend time trying to catch these bad people.

Craigslist should be an asset to the law, call the girls one by one and see who they are and if they're being exploited. craigslist has all credit card information from all these ads and a good phone number. Prostitution should be legal anyhow, consenting adults have the right to do what they want whne they want.............and I think it helps reduce rape and other sex crimes by giving pervs a way to get off. Soooooooooo tinhorn Dart STFU

Randy, you hit the nail on the head. Absolutely it should be legalized!!!! If the precious USA followed/copied Australia in the legalization of prostitution, think of all the new tax money they could collect for this "new" job market. Let alone how safe it would become, not only for the patrons but for the women too. Granted it would not get rid of the really bad side that would still haunt the streets, but it sure would go a long ways toward getting it under control. But I guess it is alot easier to blame a few website developers for the incompetence of law enforcement........

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