Under tremendous pressure from 17 state attorneys general and several public advocacy groups, Craigslist removed their Adult Services section in the United States on Saturday, replacing it with a black bar that says “censored”. The attorneys general stated that this section of the Web site was facilitating prostitution, exploitation and human trafficking.
After the jailhouse suicide last month of medical student Philip Markoff, who was awaiting trial in the killing of a masseuse he met through Craigslist, the ad listings were questioned.
This dispute is one of the most prominent in the controversy over free speech on the Internet. We ask ourselves, how much responsibility does a Web site like Craigslist have for these illegal activities and for their users’ posts?
Instead of seeing this situation as an obstacle to their site, Craigslist should realize the problem at hand and use it as an opportunity to tackle this ongoing haunting issue.
Currently, Craigslist still has 250 other erotic pages globally where children and women are still being sold for sex. If Craigslist is committed to ending human trafficking, the Web site should shut down the other adult services sections that are available worldwide.
Blocking all adult ads on Craigslist is the first step in the right direction; however, this action by itself will not solve the major issue.
Just because the Adult Services section disappears does not mean the ads will too. This will have no impact on the amount of prostitution that occurs globally because there are many other services out there. These prostitution ads will simply link to other sites.
Rather than going after just the advertisements, officials need to push for law enforcement efforts to use information from services like Craigslist to go after human traffickers and those who profit off of harming others. We severely need to urge sites like Craigslist to work with law enforcement, as well as devise new plans to fight this abusive industry and find more resources to control the visibility of the Web.
In order to commit to ending the use of this Web site as a platform for trafficking and the sexual enslavement of children and young women, we must take further action to solve the problem. If we care about eradicating the misery that exploited women and children experience, and want to stop this exploitation, we need to stop disregarding this and be aware of the actual issue.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.