Expert: Censoring Craigslist won’t stop prostitution

Posted by David Gomez

Danah Boyd has dedicated a large portion of her life to ending violence against women and children. She hates the type of scum who would victimize others through the sex-power matrix, domestic violence, and nonconsensual prostitution.

This woman holds a PhD. from UC-Berkley, works as a researcher at Microsoft Research New England is also a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

She is an expert on several Internet related issues and has been fighting sex criminals for 12 years on her own time.

So when she suggested that censoring Craigslist’s “adult services” section wouldn’t do anything to combat violent sex crimes, why didn’t the authorities listen? She wasn’t sensationalizing the censorship issue for media attention; she was giving her analysis because she is an expert in that field.

Boyd said in a blog post a week ago that “I believe that the current efforts to censor Craigslist’s ‘adult services’ achieves the absolute opposite. Rather than helping those who are abused, it fundamentally helps pimps, human traffickers, and others who profit off of abusing others.”

The issue, according to Boyd is not an issue of censorship; it is an issue of transparency. The talking heads and the fear mongering pundits are only talking about the censorship issue - not how censoring Craigslist is actually going to make law enforcement’s job harder.

There was a lot of pressure a few weeks ago from the US Attorney’s office and several public groups to put the “adult services” section out of business. And it worked: Craigslist caved and censored it.

That’s how these things usually work. Someone in the media raises an issue, this time over concern that Craigslist was being used for prostitution. Then the public reacts, becomes alarmed - and worries that some evil man will use Craigslist to snatch up its babies and use them in the sex trade.

That’s how large groups work most of the time; they are all fear with little logic. If these concerned citizens, politicians, and law enforcement officers had any sense they would realize that censoring the adult services section on Craigslist only makes the problem less visible, it does nothing to help the victims who desperately need our help.

Boyd made a compelling argument in her blog post a week ago. She pointed out that while censoring what people don’t like will make them feel better, it won’t keep anyone safe.

Instead, Craigslist adult services section offered law enforcement an opportunity to watch what illegal acts were going down and stop them. Instead of shutting down the area of the website where the illegal activity was taking place, they could have used it to help catch the criminals.

Craigslist was a website that was started to help people build a better community. Boyd knows Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. He's made a lot of money out of the site.

He uses this money, not to hide away on a Caribbean island, but to help his community and his fellow human beings. Shutting down the adult services section was a bad move. Craigslist could have worked with law enforcement to watch Craigslist and nab criminals before they even knew what hit them.

Sure the pimps, prostitutes and scumbags will be inconvenienced, but that is only temporary. Before long they will find another place to do their business.

Law enforcement had a chance to make a difference, but they listened to irrational people. Now the criminals will live to victimize another day.