As far as anyone at the venerable Internet site Craigslist knew on Friday, an advertisement that a California woman allegedly used to pimp her 4-year-old daughter for $500 is still posted on the site.
In fact, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said the Martinez Police never contacted the company during their investigation, which led to the womans arrest Tuesday on child soliciting charges.
Newmark didnt find out until days later, and it was via press reports.
In a way, Martinez, Calif. police investigators cant be blamed for not approaching Craigslist for help. It may not have been necessary in this case. Plus, in general, law enforcers still chafe at the plodding pace of Internet companies acting upon official, or unofficial, requests for help or information. Often, it just isnt worth the wait.
Had they asked Craigslist to participate, Martinez investigators would have experienced a response time that goes above and beyond what police have grown to expect, Newmark said.
"Were very proactive," even offering to coach investigators in properly handling Internet-related evidence to withstand courtroom challenges, Newmark said.
But his social and legal responsibilities are tempered by a fierce respect of the privacy of Craigslist users, he adds.
"I remember and know the Bill of Rights," Newmark said. "But my instincts tell me to be helpful, and (that attitude) is surprising to a lot of cops who deal with Internet crimes."
A Martinez Police Department representative didnt return a call seeking comment.
Martinez police arrested 22-year-old Shannon Nicole Wood, of Martinez, on suspicion of offering a minor under 16 for lewd acts. On Friday, Wood was awaiting the filing of formal charges in the case.
The police were initially tipped off by someone that read an ad Wood posted, and later had a conversation with Wood in which she allegedly offered her child for sex, according to police. Also getting involved in the case is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The center most recently reported that child exploitation and pornography is among the fastest growing businesses on the Internet.
The case in California also highlights another problem at most community sites, like Craigslist, populated by contributions from the public.
The more the site bulges with contributions, the more impossible the task to proactively police every posting.
Rather, these online retailers, auctions sites and community boards rely mainly on Web site visitors to bring the suspicious content to their attention.
Its likely this is a why the alleged Craigslist ad could have been posted in the first place.