Craigslist Folds On Erotic Services Debate

Plus: Translation of what the CEO really meant

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After a series of murders perpetrated by the now famed “craigslist killer” and significant pressure from state attorneys general and law enforcement across the country, Craigslist is shutting down its “erotic services” category.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster made the announcement via the company blog this afternoon. The announcement, for all its civil language, carries with it a nice undertone of resentment, likely because this is clearly a PR decision and not a legal one. Every free speech and Internet law attorney in the world probably buzzed Buckmaster and Craig Newmark’s ears about how none of the state attorneys general hassling them had a shred of legal ground to stand on due to federal law preventing them from taking action against craigslist.

With that in mind, we’re providing both the text of Buckmaster’s post and a translation of what he really meant, as interpreted by yours truly. Just for fun, let’s say I’ve "Biden-ized it." (Note: none of the following is meant in any way to endorse prostitution.)

Striking a New Balance

"As of today for all US craigslist sites, postings to the "erotic services" category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed."

Translation: We’re tired of being harassed by a gang of politically motivated state attorneys general with no legal basis whatsoever for their demands who are apparently angry we’ve made their job catching prostitutes and johns so much easier by providing a central location from which to entrap them for making unapproved coital transactions. 

"Also effective today for all US sites, a new category entitled "adult services" will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers. Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use. New postings will cost $10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5."

Translation: To make them happy, we’re removing the ability for law enforcement to identify obvious solicitations and setting up a new location where solicitations are appropriately codified in the same manner as is acceptable in newspapers and phone books around the country, including but not limited to phrasing such as “escort” and “sensual massage” while simultaneously raising the cost of entrapment as described above. With incentive and ability to enforce prostitution laws removed from craigslist, we trust all parties will receive their happy endings one way or another.

"Unsurprisingly, but completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic journalism we’ve seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole."

Translation: Because we’re digital and not operating on dead trees, the Man doesn’t like us and newspapers want us dead, hence all the sexy “craigslist killer” headlines and no mention of how crooks and sickos have been using newspaper classifieds to identify targets for decades. And we obviously resent that, thanks for nothing, you a-holes.

"The relative safety of craigslist compared to print classifieds is likely due to some combination of:

  • Measures such as blocking, screening, and telephone verification
  • Community moderation via flagging system
  • Electronic trail ensures violent criminals are quickly caught
  • Personal safety tips prominently posted
  • Unusually high level of cooperation with law enforcement "

Translation: We tried to tell them all that, and how none of that stuff is available in newspaper or phonebooks or even in Google search, through which a person, even Wyatt Earp-like governors and politicians, can easily find an “escort” in their area who accepts Visa and Master Card for unapproved coital transactions, and all law enforcement did was plug their ears and go “la la la la not listening.” Even though we gave them unprecedented amounts of data to help law enforcement do its job, we have the sneaking suspicion it’s less about eradicating a problem than it is about ensuring there’s a shadowy, perpetual threat at which they can point and jump up and down and shout “whores!” in order to scare elderly constituents during election years.

"Community moderation as exemplified by our flagging system is arguably the most successful system ever conceived for eliminating inappropriate activity from a massive internet community. Working in tandem with various other protective technologies, it is an inescapable force to be reckoned with for anyone set on abusing free internet communications across a broad array of posting types."

Translation: Can you think of better system for identifying whores than a large mob of unhealthily sex-obsessed humans? What worked in Salem can work at craigslist, right? Just think how efficient bloodthirsty mobs of the past could have been with social networks, come on!   

However, with respect to this new paid category for advertising by legal businesses, we will experiment with some of the methods traditionally employed in paid print classifieds.

Translation: We’ll pay somebody a tiny amount of money to misunderstand orders over the telephone so that the addresses are off by a number and a letter. That way they won’t know where to come kill you and cops won’t know where to raid.

"We’d like to thank everyone who has provided helpful input over the past few weeks, all of which we’ve closely considered:

  • Our users, whose suggestions have shaped every aspect of craigslist
  • Attorneys General, who have provided valuable constructive criticism
  • Law Enforcement officers nationwide, who have been hugely supportive
  • Legal businesses concerned at their right to advertise being questioned
  • EFF and other legal experts defending free speech and Internet law "

Translation: Attorneys general, when bluffing in large groups, are scarier than you might think and so we ignored everybody else. The most surprising lesson we learned was that most state attorneys general think the “Communications Decency Act” is a traveling gospel group promoting speech etiquette and their own brand of mouth soap. 

We are optimistic that the new balance struck today will be an acceptable compromise from the perspective of these constituencies, and for the diverse US communities that value and rely upon craigslist.

Translations: We hope this makes the bastards happy. If not, we’re out of ideas.

"Note: Our announced intention to contribute 100% of net revenues for the "erotic services" category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding criticism questioning our good faith in this regard. However, in light of today’s changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation regarding how revenue from the "adult services" category will be used. Our commitment to philanthropy remains however, and craigslist will continue to develop its charitable initiatives. "

Translation: We’re not giving any more dirty money to clean charities that might actually help the prostitution problem in the long run because now we have to pay a team of people to police listings targeted toward so-called “adults.” Again, we hope you’re happy.  

Craigslist Folds On Erotic Services Debate
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