Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Craigslist's Adult Services Department 'Closed for Good' in US

A spokesperson for Craigslist told reporters that the Adult Services section, which has been targeted by politicians in nearly 20 states recently, would remain closed for good in the U.S. Though the Attorneys General never produced any evidence that Craigslist's Adult Services section was being used to traffick children, which was one of the many harms attributed to the service in the letter, it is a little irresponsible to suggest that Craigslist was "bullied" into closing the department.

While I maintain that I am not against prostitution in general, I also maintain that this was not a matter of Free Speech, and this distinction needs to be clearly demarcated because it's shit like this that causes a blanket "crackdown" on basically everything in which the First Amendment truly does play a role -- from pornography to actual, real art. I really don't care about Craigslist, nor have I ever; I only ever once attempted to use it to place an ad for a cat, and it was rejected! I assume the owners thought I was using some base double-entendre, but I'm pretty sure I could come up with something slightly more clever than "PUSSYcat." That is not my point here.

The point is that a lot of otherwise valid art is all too often lumped-in with questionable commerce, such as this, under the broad heading of "Free Speech." And while it does nothing but allow these people to continue doing what they do, it negatively impacts actual artists, activists, and even simple hobbyists by association. The Attorneys General knew what they were doing, and I agree that this was basically a political ploy designed to make them look tough on crime in an election year, but I'm not going to pretend that Craigslist was a victim here; this was largely a "bad guys" game, all the way around.

Danah Boyd, a "Social Media Researcher" for Microsoft, wrote an interesting piece on Alternet.org which begins by admitting that the closure of Craigslist's Adult Services was not a matter of free speech, then continues to repeat the word "censorship" throughout the rest of the article.

While Boyd's assessment is largely correct, it suffers from one, major flaw: Never once does Danah Boyd acknowledge the widespread corruption within the police, and general legal, community. This is not a new issue, but one which continues to expand and deepen more rapidly than we can keep up with it. These people are not the "forgotten" heroes Boyd, obviously a member of the "well-to-do" (or should we say "comfortable") class, portrays. Not a single day passes that we are not made privy to some new allegation, abuse, and/or scandal involving the police and/or other legal authorities. To ignore this omnipresent, and continually growing, threat -- more specifically, to treat it as though it doesn't exist -- is a crime in and of itself, especially when discussing an issue such as this!

In fact, Boyd's own article proves this very point, as the author literally states that law enforcement officials should have used Craigslist's Adult Services to monitor, infiltrate, and arrest abusers (as well as johns, hookers, and the whole lot). Other articles mention that Craigslist offered cooperation to these ends many times over. That may well be true, but it reeks of the "FBI Informant" angle -- Craigslist wasn't offering this out of the kindness of its heart, it was hoping to keep pimpin'.

Criagslist's Adult Services has been around almost as long as the site itself. So, Danah Boyd, did you ever wonder why anyone didn't start monitoring it before? Whether to arrest, infiltrate, or "save" some hos, if law enforcement really wanted to do anything about all of this, they would have been doing it already. The same is true of Craigslist, which certainly had no problem cashing-in on prostitution, but immediately threw its hands up and claimed it had nothing to do with any of it when the heat came down.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

1 comment:

ManoDogs said...

I would say the EFF got this wrong too, but let's be honest: A lot of these "people" and organizations are decrying Craigslist's "censorship" because Craigslist indirectly pays them to do so.

Craigslist absolutely does do a lot of good through its charity donations, but those donations also help Craigslist when it comes tax season. I'm not saying that Craigslist donates only because they get big tax write-offs for doing so, nor am I saying that everyone who considered this a matter of free speech thinks that solely because they benefit, in one way or another, from Craigslist's continued wealth, but I'm not about to pretend these things play absolutely no part in this discussion, either.