Predictably, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, one of the leading critics of the site, is already making noises about subpoenaing Craigslist for more details, according to the Associated Press.
This outcry about Craigslist might make for good politics -- and might actually help publicize some of the risks of the site. But it doesn't seem aimed at stopping crime. Yes, the site is used by criminals -- ones who leave behind a digital trail that should make it relatively easy to arrest and prosecute them. What's more, for all the complaints about unsavory activity on Craigslist, no one has come forward with any numbers showing there's more crime -- prostitution, financial scams, assaults, or anything else linked to Craigslist -- than in the pre-Internet era.
Nonetheless, the media seems all too eager to let politicians scapegoat Craigslist. Of course, newspapers have their own reasons to resent the site. Newspapers' classifieds revenue plummeted from almost $20 billion in 2000 in around $10 billion last year. Meantime, the use of Craigslist skyrocketed, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Around one in 10 Web users now visit a Web classifieds site on any given day, up from 4% in 2005, Pew reports. The bottom line is that newspapers simply weren't able to compete with Craigslist, which isn't interested in making a profit.
Meantime, it seems as if the print media is getting a boost from the pressure on Craigslist. Last month, Craigslist voluntarily agreed to discontinue its section of erotic ads and replace them with a monitored "adult" section. The Washington City Paper says the move is already having an effect. The paper recently reported Village Voice Media's SF Weekly ran 910 adult ads last week, up from 160 in the week before Craigslist changed its policy.