Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Craigslist Moral Panic!!

The Globe's at it again. This time, according to the Globe's headline, Craigslist's CEO is in favor of illegal sex!! On the heels of yesterday's (two) front-page stories, there's two more front-page stories. In fact, there's five stories and an editorial. The two front-page stories are even covering the same angles as the front-page stories the day before: each day one story's covered the alleged criminal, the other the evils of Craigslist. Be afraid! This should come to the surprise of no one. Not that I'm in the habit of quoting myself, but when I'm right, I'm right.
According to the Boston Globe, if you use Craigslist, you may get hacked up into little pieces, served baked, with fine wine. Or something like that. Anyone feel like the Globe should have included a disclaimer? Something akin to, "Note: Craigslist is one of the Globe's biggest competitors in actually making money. They took our lucrative business and put it online, for free. And now the Times is threatening us to close! We fucking hate Craigslist."
The Globe, in its editorial, hasn't quite called for federal hearings yet -- but you know that's coming soon. They've already demanded Craigslist get rid of its "erotic" section, you know, the same personals that are printed in hundreds of newspapers across the country. Don't worry, though, it doesn't stop there. The Globe's also made the demands that Craigslist hire more staff to watch out for future abuse. Never mind the fact that such abuse is rare. Never mind the fact that Craigslist has something that newspaper personals and classifieds have never had -- user flagging ability. Never mind the fact that the Globe doubtfully ever employed anyone to make sure no crime ever took place in their classified sections. Craigslist is simply a 'risky place' according to the Globe's editorial, short of any statistics or facts. It's risky because the Boston Globe says so.

But let's get back to the moral outrage.
Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster denied yesterday that the website offered sex-related advertising, even as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on the company to take stronger actions to combat pornography, prostitution, and child trafficking in its online classifieds....

He acknowledged that Craigslist offers an "erotic services" section that should not include more than "legitimate escort services, sensual massage, exotic dancers, etc.," but said that offers to exchange sexual favors for money are "strictly prohibited" and removed from the site.
That policy point is true. Craigslist does ban postings based on prostitution. Does that mean posts offering sex for money don't get through? Of course not. Thousands of people submit personal ads to Craigslist every day. Meanwhile, the company has 25 people who work for it, according to yesterday's Globe article. Considering the immense bandwidth the site uses, as well as the fact that the majority of the postings are for free (and the rest a pittance), who knows how many more employees Craigslist could take on. This is a point the Globe should well understand -- their particularly shoddy journalism of the past few years from a once-proud paper can be directly attributed to the slashes made to their budget, leading to the gutting of some of their most talented writers on staff. Maybe Craigslist should hire some more employees for community policing when the Globe hires a few more journalists capable of writing decent articles?

Honestly, I'd settle for a few facts. There aren't many out there, but there's this. Craigslist has been associated with three murders over the past year. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, there's over 40,000 murders in America every year. There's been no evidence in the media or elsewhere to suggest that Craigslist is anymore dangerous than using a public restroom at some highway stop late at night. At the very least, it's no more dangerous than anything else on the internet. Certainly, a lot of crime happens as a result of what we do online. However, compared to the volume of total online activity, does more crime happen as a result of someone being online than off it? Doubtful.

In the end, this is just another story for the media to get fixated on, selling fear to the masses. The media likes to make us afraid. It sells papers and ads. Moreover, now that Craigslist is involved, the media's just ecstatic to explore all the sordid details: with millions of personals posted every day, there's no end to the embarrassing and anonymous erotic messages the media can print. Of course, these are all things the Boston Phoenix prints every day in their personals (for profit) anyway, but that's easy to gloss over. The best part yet is the media gets to have a little payback at Craigslist, a site largely blamed for eating at the profits of papers around the country. 25% of a paper's biz used to come from classifieds. That's all but gone now.

Maybe, and this is the really disingenuous, is instead of looking forward to new business models, the dead tree business is hoping the old ones will come back. They can create all the moral panic and fear they want, but it only shows how out of touch they've become. And what do subscribers do when they think their papers are out of touch? They cancel their subscriptions. Perhaps, amidst the media Craigslist histrionics, that's what papers should really be scared about. The millions of people who've successfully used Craigslist aren't afraid, but the dying dead tree business may just become dead a little sooner.


momingle said...

I hate craigslist too. That is why I created an alternative which doesn't have any adult service section and also have a much better interface. It is . It allows people to post location-based messages or classified ads on a map. I just need more people to try it and post more message.

Anonymous said...

Globe subscription cancelled when it became a Romney campaign headquarters!

How can I cancel a paper I no longer subscribe to?

The Globe used to be a good paper filled with worthy news. Now, you have to pick and sort through to find the few worthy reporters.

Journalism? Dead at the Globe!

I'd love to resurrect it but after this brouhaha, I have my doubts.

Boston needs a decent newspaper. Massachusetts needs a decent newspaper. Where are they?

Ryan said...

I'm beginning to come around to Brookline Tom's opinion, expressed at BMG, that the Globe can't and shouldn't be saved. Something else will emerge, maybe several new things. It will be different, but quite likely better.

I'm not *quite* there yet, but I'm becoming sympathetic to it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the solution is but the Globe gets this one wrong!

Assuming this guy is guilty and is convicted, to blame craigslist is like the Twinkie Defense.

If the creep didn't get names from craigslist, he would have used another source.

We have greater problems and more important issues to discuss and focus on that the Globe consistently ignores.

Can anyone imagine where we might be if the Globe had educated voters about the fiscal deadend the state was pursuing with the Republican Governors they blindly supported and promoted?

The Globe lost its way years ago and has been sadly missed!

The parent is no longer the journalistic standard it once was held to be.

Sad times for the public and journalism!

Anonymous said...

When the Globe dare not link a Foxwoods' gambling addict to murder, a little creativity is a must! paraphrase "The Wonder of It All"!

Is this what gambling addiction leads people to do? Should we expect more if the state legalizes expanded gambling?

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