Censoring Craigslist

Saturday, September 4th marked a big day for Craigslist.org and the internet in general when the popular classified ad site replaced its adult services section with a black bar that simply read “censored”. After constant pressure from State Attorneys, the San Francisco, California based company disabled that section of their site in order to avoid any further legal burden due to accusations that the ads posted there were potentially soliciting illegal prostitution.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard a story or two about miscellaneous theft, prostitution and even murders that began with a simple response to Craigslist ads. Sure, Craigslist.org has received a lot of bad media recently, but let’s not forget that it’s people who are committing these crimes and not the company. Unfortunately, these are everyday occurrences in our world and the internet acts as an open forum that can assist in these crimes. Craigslist isn’t the only web site that criminals target and in no way does the site promote such acts. In reference to the potentially illegal ads soliciting prostitution, Craigslist has simply boxed off a section of the site for “adult” services to keep them out of other areas that may be viewed by younger audiences or people who do not wish to view such ads.

Up until now you could browse the furniture section of Craigslist and find just that – furniture. I can’t help but wonder what the repercussions of censoring Craigslist will be and if, sadly, the adult services posters will begin to post in other sections of the site. What if they do and Craigslist is unable to control/flag the unwanted ads and thus the site’s traffic rapidly decreases? Could this be the downfall of Craigslist?

Maybe the adult service advertisers will quietly move on to other emerging classified ad sites like Backpage that doesn’t ban that sort of post. Then how long will it be before Backpage is pressured to remove those ads? There are definitely some lessons to be learned here.

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