Commentary

Craigslist CEO: Don't Blame Us For Crime Wave

Faced with lurid newspaper headlines and the wrath of law enforcement officials, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has taken to the company's blog to argue that plenty of criminals have used print classifieds to find crime victim.

In fact, he points out, the phenomenon is so well-known that there's even a Wikipedia entry for "Lonely Hearts Killer" -- which the site defines as a "want ad killer."

"When critics rush to tar craigslist as especially dangerous, it's important to put things in perspective," he writes. "Craigslist users have posted more than 1.15 billion classified ads to date, easily 1000x the combined total ever posted to the print publications involved in all of these 'print ad murders.'"

Buckmaster has a point when he says that some predators have found victims through print want ads, but it's not clear how the crime stats compare. For the most part, it's only the high-profile cases that receive national news attention, which makes it somewhat difficult to figure out how many crimes in total have been linked to Craigslist.

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Still, it seems like a general anti-Internet feeling is driving some of the backlash against Craigslist. State attorneys general are pressuring the site to do away with its "erotic services" ads, and one official is threatening the site's management with criminal prosecution.

Craigslist appears to have an iron-clad defense against either civil or criminal actions based on material uploaded by users. But that isn't even slowing down law enforcement officials from condemning the site.

In that regard, Craigslist isn't alone. Consider, anti-MySpace sentiment also grew to a fevered pitch a few years ago, when some people tried to hold the company responsible for sex abuse by predators who found victims on the site. MySpace eventually agreed to block sex offenders from creating profiles on the site -- even though the company had no legal obligation to do so.

It's fairly predictable by now that any new technology will result in some form of backlash. But crime obviously won't disappear, even if Web sites do. Expending energy blaming companies like Craigslist and MySpace isn't going to make anyone safer.

3 comments about "Craigslist CEO: Don't Blame Us For Crime Wave".
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  1. Mitchell Millar from Bay Area News Group, May 8, 2009 at 8:26 p.m.

    It may just be me, but I don't remember seeing any ads for prostitution in my daily newspaper.

    Buckmaster is lamebrain with that kind of logic.

  2. Daniel Bader from jackpot ventures, May 8, 2009 at 9:24 p.m.

    Craigslist is also fertile grounds for extortionist Fair Housing groups.
    (After combing through Craigslist' apt. for rent ads, a formal discrimination complaint was filed against me by the Fair Housing Council of Orange County alleging that a 8 word phrase I used ("...well suited for 1 or 2 professional adults") somehow crossed the discrimintory advertising threshold. They demanded $4,000 and five years of landlord education. An 'unlimited damages' suit was eventually filed against me by the State of CA for refusing to pay up. www.stategonecrazy.com)

  3. Tony Anderson from Incline Video, May 13, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.

    Looks like the "Moral Majority" is back in the form of internet and CL bashing. Anyone ever hear about these kinds of problems in other countries? Don't think so.
    If the States are "United" why is prostitution legal in
    some counties in Nevada and Rhode Island? Why is the same true for alcohol and tobacco? Maybe we should call this country the SSA or the Separatist States of America! Law enforcement left the internet alone for the first few years...looks like they need some low-hanging fruit all of a sudden. Why is that?

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