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Scapegoating Craigslist Is Not Going to Solve the Problem of Underage Prostitution

For years, politicians have gone after Craigslist for ads promoting sex trafficking and prostitution. At best their efforts are misguided, and may even exacerbate the problem.

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"I think Craigslist is not the only one, but they’re the best known. I can’t say there are more ads for trafficked people on Craigslist than other places. But it’s a big organization, and getting them to change their policies would effect more change."

The Craigslist Response and Those Other Sites

One of the stranger aspects of attacks on Craigslist is the fact that traffickers are often caught through the site.

Craigslist emphasizes that it has gone out of its way to work closely with law enforcement to crack down on illegal sex ads. (It must be said here that adults voluntarily engaging in sex work – though there’ also opportunity for exploitation there – are in a totally different realm than children or those forced into prostitution. In fact, it has been argued that sites like Craigslist may provide a safer venue for adult sex workers.)

When I ask Jim Buckmaster why Craigslist is being targeted so frequently, his response was this:

No good deed goes unpunished! It's surprising that after all the improvements we have made Craigslist continues to be singled out for criticism (much of it directed at those very improvements!) while countless sites specializing in utterly unmoderated adult ads continue to get a free pass from politicians and advocacy groups. It leads us to wonder whether, if we hadn't issued a Joint Statement with the Attorneys General, and had refrained from adopting all of the protective measures we've taken, whether all of this could have been avoided.

Buckmaster adds: "Why is it of no interest that companies other than Craigslist, with far more such ads, graphic and unmoderated, are not screening them at all, nor have they taken any of the other protective measures we have taken? 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.”

Buckmaster insists: "Each ad submitted to adult services on Craigslist is manually screened by one or more human reviewers. Ads that blatantly advertise prostitution are summarily rejected. For example, most if not all of the adult services ads featured by the Village Voice Inc. Backpage ( which carries more adult ads than Craigslist in most US cities) would be rejected by our manual reviewers, and in fact quite a few of them would be submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids cyber tipline "

It should be noted that the Village Voice Co. was taken over in 2006 by New Times, a company which owned 10 weekly newspapers, operating out of Phoenix Arizona, and owned by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. The owners of the Voice, primarily David Schneiderman, sold their 5 papers to New Times, giving the company unprecedented consolidation of 14 papers in most key US markets including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Seattle. New Times decided that the Village Voice brand was stronger than theirs and called the consolidated new company Village Voice Inc.

Here are some ads from BackPage, supplied by Buckmaster:

Here’s an ad with photos (NSFW) of bare genitalia (Craigslist reviewers reject ads with nude pictures), describing specific sex acts offered (Craigslist 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.

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