Clarity in the Craigslist story

In a post earlier this week, I suggested that doing what many people, including attorneys general, have somewhat understandably called for in the name of defeating human trafficking and prostitution – deleting Craigslist’s Adult Services section – would do little to solve the problem. But writing in the Huffington Post, social media researcher danah boyd – who herself has been victimized, she wrote – clearly explains why deleting that section not only makes no headway in solving the problem but also helps the criminals. First, there are a few things most of us new to the user-driven social Web don’t understand: that taking away the visible online representation of an offline activity does not erase the activity itself; that the visible representation can be useful to law enforcement, which can do something about the offline activity; and that taking away the visibility of illegal activity can actually help the criminals, who tend to prefer operating in secret. “In short,” boyd writes, “Craigslist is not a pimp, but a public perch from which law enforcement can watch without being seen.” What we’re talking about here, is kind of a latter-day “don’t kill the messenger.” But read her whole post for much more clarity.

Leave a comment