Craigslist’s Showdown with the Sheriff

Craigslist has once again come under fire for allegedly “failing to block offers to trade sex for money,” according to Illinois sheriff Tom Dart. The blog over at the Technology Liberation Front fired back, noting that

”Craig’s List is perhaps the best example of a site that should be immune from prosecution for the actions of its users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It exercises little control over what its users do, and that’s what makes the service both valuable and free. If the company had to hire thousands more people to examine every post that comes before it, its service would become more like Apple’s iPhone/iPod Touch App Store.

Section 230 allows websites like Craig’s List, Google, YouTube, Blogger, and pretty much every other user-driven Web 2.0 site the security to know they can operate free of lawsuits about what someone else, their users, did. Adam Thierer goes so far as to argue that it makes possible a real world analog for Nozick’s meta-utopia.”

Section 230 of the CDC states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” and this situation pretty clearly falls under this category. Anyone who has visited the site, which was founded by noted free Internet advocate Craig Newmark, knows that it is little more than a forum for people to place their own advertisements. When users post classifieds on the site, they are notified that “the responsibility for the content (of your post) is yours”- no legalese and no disclaimers here, and none are necessary or should be required, though users of the sites’ adult services must agree that they are at least 18 before proceeding to that particular section of the site.

Craigslist has been protected before by Section 230 back in 2006 when the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sued the company for allegedly allowing users to post discriminatory ads that violated the Fair Housing Act. Precedent may be in their favor, but the moral outrage that this raging bull Illinois sheriff is trying to raise with inflammatory generalizations and exaggerations like ”Missing children, runaways, abused women and women trafficked in from foreign countries are routinely forced to have sex with strangers because they’re being pimped on Craigslist” knows no bounds.

If these people really want to stop immoral and illegal activities like prostitution, they should spend more time targeting the actual perpetrators of these acts and less time enacting forced agreements on websites and ISPs. Prosecuting Craigslist for allowing prostitution is as asinine as prosecuting car companies for deadly car crashes, gun companies for shooting deaths, and cigarette companies for selling products that cause lung cancer. Oh, wait.

Published in
Post Categories
Share on

Post a comment