Craigslist is one of the first truly user owned and operated sites. Anyone can list any good or service to buy, sell or trade on Craigslist. This lack of censorship has led inevitably to ads for prostitution and human trafficking in it’s ‘adult services’ (formerly ‘erotic services’) section. Under Section 203 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Craigslist was declared out of bounds and safe from lawsuit because as an ‘interactive computer service’, it is not a publisher of the content that third-parties post’. Youtube has been shielded from censorship under similar laws.
I have a problem with this interpretation of the Decency Act on several principles. Basically this law would be equivalent to me as a homeowner being declared immune from punishment if third parties smoke pot in my yard, because I didn’t grow or sell the pot myself. Or me not getting a ticket if an adult passenger in my car wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Neither of these apply. I would be punished in either scenario. This law is similar to laws that forbid the sale, possession and use of marijuana while allowing the sale, possession and use of pot-smokiing impedimentia.
I’m not in favor of censorship. It smacks of totalitarianism. And Craigslist has agreed to enact measures to curb the human-trafficking and sale of sex online. But here’s an interesting twist. Craigslist has renamed the section under which sex is sold from ‘erotic services’ to ‘adult services’. interesting that Craigslist moved away from a more explicit and obvious labeling to a more innocuous sounding generic ‘adult services’. Seems much more likely to me that innocent users will stumble into a adult services than they would into the more obvious ‘erotic services’ on Craigslist.
Also, Craigslist has agreed to charge a nomimal fee to purveyors of prostitution and human-trafficking, to curb the flow. This is win-win for Craigslist. The nominal fee is a drop in the bucket for ‘retailers’ in a multi-billion dollar industry, but it’s netting Craigslist big money, 36 million bucks, or 1/3 of its revenue. For this fee Craigslist has promised to ‘monitor’ the adult services section. And here’s Craigslist’s coup de grace; originally the monies made on ads from the ‘erotic services’ section were donated to charity. Now Craigslist has decided that it will pocket said ad money. The only way to stop this lunacy at Craigslist is to boycott the site entirely. Will the general public take this step? I doubt it. We don’t tend to be very good at putting our money where our mouth is.
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