Craigslist’s Adult Section: Is Censorship The Answer?
Late last week, Craigslist replaced the link to the controversial adult section featured on the page with a very noticeable black “censored” bar. Since then, the image has come down and the adult section seems to be discontinued (for now). Is this censorship a step in the right direction or a slap in the face?
After complaints from several sources such as NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), interest groups, and nonprofits began to cause public outcry against the adult services section (with some calling it the Walmart of prostitution), politicians in several areas of the U.S. have sprung into action.
Attorneys general in several states are disappointed with the effort (or lack thereof) which has been made by Craigslist personnel to screen the services and ensure money is not exchanged for sexual acts and/or favors (a practice pretty much implied by the mere existence of an adult services category). Activists and special interest groups are also targeting Craigslist, accusing the site of providing easy and reliable transactions for those involved in human trafficking and sexual encounters with children.
Of course there is the argument that Craigslist simply provides a forum in which people make their own decisions as to what to post. The problems of prostitution and human trafficking exist beyond the scope of Craigslist and making the online classifieds the scapegoat will do nothing to end either of them. Some are even beginning to question the broader implications of any type of regulations/enforcement placed on Craigslist by the government for the rest of the Web. Will the Internet change forever and go from relatively free and boundless to overrun with stifling regulation?
It doesn’t seem we need to worry about these things just yet. The issue here is not really about the ‘Net being regulated. It’s about companies doing their best to monitor and report illegal activity transpiring on their sites, something the Craigslist crew has vowed to do.
After a little investigative reporting from CNN, it doesn’t seem that those promises were as serious as they should have been. Case in point:
We know what you’re thinking, and yes, she just bum-rushed the founder, Craig Newmark, to the point he was speechless and defenseless. Such interviews don’t usually have very coherent or articulate answers because the speakers are caught completely off guard. Furthermore, while Newmark is a founder (and is believed to be a majority owner) of Craigslist, he is not in any actual management position within the company. Of course, this prompted a response—penned by CEO Jim Buckmaster—via the company blog.
At the end of the day, people are just looking for some follow-through from a company which has provided a vehicle for some pretty heinous things to go down. Legal wrangling aside, this is something the company itself promised to handle. Businesses, whether bricks-and-mortar or online, have an obligation to ensure the law is enforced and people (especially children) are safe. Removing the adult-services category (in the U.S. only) may be a step in the “right” direction, but we suggest keeping an eye on the personals section as well.
Until then, the fact will remain that “pimpin’ ain’t easy”—unless, of course, you’re on Craigslist.