The decision by popular online marketplace Craigslist to remove the Adult Services section sparks a debate as to whether the company's free speech rights are under fire.
Following pressure from state governments and conservative and religious
groups, the popular online marketplace Craigslist placed a black "Censored"
bar over the section previously labeled "Adult Services," sparking a
heated debated online and in the media as to whether the company's free speech
rights are being infringed upon. However, the decision is unlikely to deter the
more enterprising Craigslist users. According to a Wall Street Journal report
, Executive Director of
Prostitution Research & Education Melissa Farley remarked, "The pimps
are in the process of moving over" to the site's "Casual Encounters"
The section was removed after attorneys general from 17 states sent
Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster a scathing
letter demanding the site remove the Adult Services market immediately and asked
the company to consider "the suffering of the women and children who will
continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by
Craigslist." The letter goes on to charge the company as playing a variant
of the "blame the victim" game. "It disregards, perhaps
intentionally, two fundamental facts. First, Craigslist is the only player in
the sex industry who is in a position to stop these ads before they are
published," the letter accuses. "Second, once an ad goes live on the
site, it is a virtual certainty that someone will be victimized."
The debate seems likely to drag on: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
and a coalition of public interest groups and law professors have asked a California
appeals court to protect Craigslist from a lawsuit that could spur Websites to
be less helpful in responding to complaints about user behavior. Joining the EFF
in the letter to the court is the Center for Democracy and Technology, the
Citizen Media Law Project, and law professors Eric Goldman, David S. Levine,
David G. Post and Jason Schultz. Separately, a group of Internet companies,
including Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn, filed another
amicus brief in support of Craigslist.
According to a survey
from the social media news site Mashable,
two-thirds of respondents said they found the Adult Services section
objectionable because they felt it allowed Craigslist to profit, if indirectly,
from prostitution. "Of those who thought the site and the adult sections
should remain uncensored, almost half of you (46.15 percent) felt the
censorship was unwarranted because prostitution should not be illegal in the
first place," wrote Mashable contributor Jolie O'Dell. "These
broad-minded folks comprise almost 33 percent of everyone who voted in the
Buckmaster, who also frequently posts on Craigslist's blog, wrote in an Aug.
18 blog entry
that the company had implemented
manual screening of adult services ads in May of 2009. He said since that time,
before being posted each individual ad is reviewed by an attorney licensed to
practice law in the United States, trained to enforce Craigslist's posting
guidelines, which he claimed are stricter than those typically used by yellow
pages or newspapers. Those attorneys rejected more than 700,000 ads in the year
following implementation of manual screening for falling short of the company
guidelines, Buckmaster said.
"Craigslist is committed to being socially responsible, and when it
comes to adult services ads, that includes aggressively combating violent crime
and human rights violations, including human trafficking and the exploitation
of minors," wrote Buckmaster in the same blog post. "We are working
intensively as I write this with experts and thought leaders at leading
non-profits and among law enforcement on further substantive measures we can