Missing the Mark on Craigslist and the Adult Section
By Robert McMillen, KOIN’s Tech Guru
Last week, Craigslist, the popular site for selling everything from cars to companionship, decided to take the adult section off of their website, at least temporarily. PC Magazine projected that Craigslist would have made an estimated $36 million from the adult section in 2010. This represents about one third of its income.
There has been no word from Craigslist on whether or not the section is coming back. If you were to lose one third of your income, I’m sure you would figure out some way to earn it back, right? Well, you may not create ads to sell “dates” with strangers, but you wouldn’t leave that money on the table either.
The complaints against Craigslist were rampant. 17 Attorneys General filed complaints against the company saying they were exploiting the selling of women and children. Their acceptance of the ads, which cost about $10 per day, was tacit approval of the practice. Some even called Craigslist an electronic pimp for selling the ads. I don’t disagree with any of it, but once again authorities have missed the mark completely by going about it this way.
If you’ve ever had a cockroach in your home you probably know that when you turn the light on the cockroaches scatter more quickly than you can stomp on them. My first apartment was like that. It got to the point where there so many that I would just ignore them and go about my day. Eventually, an exterminator took care of the job when it got bad enough. This is exactly what will happen with Craigslist removing the adult section.
The ads immediately went to other web publications, like Backpage.com. The ads for escorts more than doubled from just a few days ago, and the cockroaches just picked up their ads and moved. There are other locations where the oldest profession has moved to as well, but there’s no reason to list them here.
Instead of scattering the troublemakers, why don’t they just arrest them and their John’s? They have pictures of themselves in the ads. They even leave their phone numbers. Plus, Craigslist could easily provide law enforcement with credit card information and locations of IP addresses from where the ads were placed. I’ve tracked down bad guys for law enforcement and for businesses who’ve been illegally hacked with less information than what they’re offering. They couldn’t give you any more information on how to arrest them if they knocked on the door to the police department and handed them a written confession!
So why don’t they just arrest them? I can offer some possibilities, but without a statement from the police, I couldn’t really know for sure.
Here are my “shots in the dark” as to why police don’t just arrest the offenders.
First off, Portland was listed as one of the biggest areas for child prostitution in the country recently. It made for lots of bad Portland press. So we know many of these ads are about children, but even if they weren’t, we know they are exploited women. If you have all this information and you still don’t make an arrest then it’s obvious something is amiss with our law enforcement. Either the police are incapable of making an arrest using technology, or children and abused women aren’t important enough to be saved. For the first to be true we have to assume that the police departments in our area don’t have technical enough people to properly survey predators and make an arrest that can hold up in court. If that’s the case, then I offer my services free of charge. I will not only help in making the arrests and testify in court, but I will also train the departments on how to do it themselves. If the latter is true, and the abuse of children and women has no importance, then we have a much more serious problem. A problem beyond my comprehension.
So which is it?
Could it be a budget constraint? We know this is a constant problem, especially in a recession. This reminds me a little bit of a meeting I attended recently with several Chief Technology Officers for several large organizations. They were all asked what they did when the recession hit in regards to their technology. All of them said they cut their staff in half and reduced their spending. I was shocked at how short sighted these people of obviously high tech education were. If you have ten departments in a company when a recession hits, why cut the one department that can make 90% of the rest of the company more efficient? They could have easily used technology to replace several positions in other departments, and make things like sales and fund raising far more efficient by automating them with an upgrade to their infrastructure.
Bringing us back to our Craigslist topic, I see perpetrators giving their street name, photo, phone numbers, locations, and the nature of the crimes to officers all over the metro area. All they have to do is go pick them and their customers up. The practice of selling will dry up in just a few weeks, and the children can be saved. The adult women can be brought to safe houses.
The police may need a little technology training (I grant them that), but I can’t think of any easier way to clean up the illegal adult trade in Portland than by busting the bad guys with the evidence they are handing law enforcement on a silver platter.
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