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Diane Dimond
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Killer Classifieds

Comment

Jim Buckmaster must think we're stupid. He's the CEO of Craigslist, the popular and controversial Internet classified ad site. Faced with another major public relations disaster, this time the murder of a young woman who reportedly hooked up with her killer via Craigslist, all Buckmaster had to say was, "I would not describe any section of our site as 'sex related.'" He admits Craigslist does feature an "erotic services" section but, he says, it was not designed to offer more than "legitimate escort services, sensual massage or exotic dancers."

What does he think "erotic service" leads to — a game of patty-cake?

In case you've been on a different planet lately, Craigslist is a worldwide Internet site featuring millions of ads on everything from "Jobs, housing, goods, services, romance, local activities, advice — just about anything, really."

The most recent story has to do with the brutal beating and shooting death of 25-year-old Julissa Brisman in a luxury Boston hotel room. That's where police say she met medical school student Philip Markoff, now dubbed the Craigslist killer. At this writing, Markoff is charged with Brisman's murder and is suspected in the kidnapping and assault of at least two other women he met through the same site.

Let me set the record straight. Craigslist includes ads for sex, lots of ads for sex. So either Mr. Buckmaster doesn't know his own product, or he's parsing words to an extent that would put Bill Clinton to shame. Besides the erotic services section, there's a whole "Personals" section with subtitles such as: women seeking men, women seeking women, men seeking men. Just what does Buckmaster think these people are seeking — a ping-pong partner?

Suzy Spencer, a best-selling author who's researching a book on sexual trends in America, tells me the Craigslist "Casual Encounters" section is also sexually oriented. "It's where men and women go specifically to find partners for spur-of-the-moment, no-strings-attached sex, not a date for dinner and a movie. I know; it's where I've found many of my (book's) sources, and they've told me in minute detail about the sex they had with partners they found via Craigslist."

Look, I'm not blaming Craigslist for this young woman's murder. But you'd think its corporate culture might include the acceptance of some responsibility, maybe even a public admission, that their site has been a facilitator for predators on the prowl.

Supporters of the site have said it's actually a good thing Markoff turned to Craigslist because police were able to follow the computer clues right to his doorstep. I say there's never much good news when someone has been murdered.

The complaints about Craigslist and sex ads aren't new. Last year, 40 state attorneys general put pressure on the company and forced Craigslist to take steps to tone down its salacious postings. In March 2008, Craigslist began requiring all those who placed erotic ads to supply a telephone number, thinking that would be a deterrent. It wasn't. In November 2008, the company agreed to charge erotic service advertisers a small credit card fee, which could go to identify them. Craigslist, then put in the uncomfortable position of both running and profiting from the erotic ads, declared the money would go to charities fighting human trafficking and child exploitation. That was nice.

Not much changed, however, as thousands of the scandalous ads continued to crop up on the site. Just last month, Tom Dart, sheriff of Cook County, Ill., filed a federal lawsuit against Craigslist, or as he called it, "the largest source of prostitution in America."

A veteran social worker source of mine in Oakland, Calif., agrees with the sheriff. She says Craigslist continues to be a major path of income for young girls she works with. Some of them brag that they were as young as 12 when they began to tap Craigslist classifieds whenever they needed to make some cold hard cash. For the men who responded — that was felony statutory rape.

CEO Buckmaster insists most of his site's classifieds are for furniture, appliances, jobs and legitimate services. Only about, "one percent of ads posted on Craigslist are in the erotic services section," he says. So, a question: If they constitute that small a contribution to Craigslist and the site makes no money from them, why not take the high road and refuse to run them? Who among us wouldn't applaud that course of action? Wouldn't that be a better public relations move than insisting Craigslist is not culpable in any way?

I wonder what Craig himself thinks about all this. Yes, the site's founder, Craig Newman, still works there as its iconic head and customer service representative. I wonder if he's totally proud of what his corporate creation has become.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
Well, Sweetie, I'm sure you think you are on to a hot lead here, but you really need to know that advertising for sex has been around in the media for decades. It was well entrenched long before you were born. I recommend more interest in awareness of history for young folks like you. I also recommend that you scrutinize mainstream television, where you will see the same thing happening, if you look carefully. That's also been happening for a long, long time. To Creators.com: Can't you do a little better than this?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Sat May 2, 2009 7:20 PM
I have to go along with Masako on this one. Craigslist is keeping a lot of women including preteens off the streets where it is not uncommon to hear of one being assaulted or killed. I have never visited craigslist myself, but I do play ping pong. If you are ever in the mood for a game let me know.
Comment: #2
Posted by: gary
Sun May 3, 2009 1:05 PM
Re: Masako;..I think you are wrong here Mr. Masako...Sex is advertizing...Reality is reality...The only way anyone can sell reality is to rub sex all over it... Do you think people love money for money, power for power, or drugs for drugs??? They want the sex they can only get by having the goods, which means some escape from reality...I'd have to say I hate if I did not enjoy it....Mrs. Dimond may not enjoy it enough to hate it...Or the other way around...But you think of it...I don't care if the girl is on tv, or some longere add; isn't the thought of that intimacy without the trouble and hazard of an actual realtionship sexy??? If I had a million dollars I bet I could have any number of leggy beauties stretched out in the sand in their undershorts too... Do we care that it demeans women??? Maybe that is the whole idea; to make sex, and intimacy into a commodity... But there is no limit to the commodities we might sell if we could sex it up...We all know we need it...It is hard to conceive of the pitiful person who needs it and cannot find it, some where with some one...But then, the relationship comes along with it, and that is not what most men want, and perhaps considering the man, not what most women want...Simply enough, for ourselves we want pleasure without pain...That is why it is so often bought...Anyone in a marriage soon finds their pleasure and pain all mixed up...It is so much easier to suffer a job for five days a week and enjoy some pleasure on saturday night with some one you do not have to love or hate, or even trouble to get to know...Sure it is an act of violence...That is what the F word means... If it is not love, and done out of love it is an act of violence... Anytime sex is made an object of commerce it is an act of violence... Any sex without love is an act of violence....What do you think the Muslims and the Christians hate about this country...We sell sex, and use sex to sell, but we do not want it to mean anything... We only want it to be an expression of our own pain... We do not want to share anyone else's pain to have it...We want it as the rich have it: on demand and meaningless...It is just another drug...It is another way to dull our senses to our own pain, frustration, and meaninglessness...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun May 3, 2009 8:46 PM
Re: James A, Sweeney: Well, we can disagree. That's quite all right, and I enjoy learning from our disagreements. You know the old saying, "I may disagree with what you say but I will defend with my life your right to say it." I am ready to sacrifice life any time to defend you. But I think you may be missing the point here. To me, this looks like pseudo outrage on sale because it sells well. My point is that sexual advertising is everywhere, and calling a guy like Craig a pimp, when he is just providing a clearing house for everything, is just plain cheap. What about all of the mega bucks made on sex sales of one type or another by the mainstream media? Isn't Craig is just a poor lost maiden compared to the big guys who Dimond surely wouldn't dream of taking on?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Masako
Mon May 4, 2009 9:20 PM
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