It’s official. Adult Services (Or Erotic Services as they were once known in the USA and continued to be named elsewhere) are gone from Craigslist.

This makes me sad.

I don’t use those services and never have. I don’t know people who do use them. And I don’t want this to be a too-far-to-the-left political rant where I scream about free speech. I’m disappointed that in an era where communication itself is the world’s largest growth business someone as smart and well intentioned as Craig Newmark has caved in.

If you read my piece on the subject of Craigslist Adult Services last week you know that when a bunch of State Attorneys General asked Craigslist to stop allowing ads to what was often prostitution they responded by removing access to that section of their site in their USA-based locations. They didn’t stop US-based users from accessing foreign Adult Services posts, nor did they take those sections down. And that’s where this should have stayed.

But in the face of pressure from more US-based politicians Craigslist has now dropped the Adult Services section of their web site.

I understand that sometimes you have to make a business decision or three on the way to protecting your business change strategy. And I’m glad for Craigslist that they can afford to so easily give up the eye-popping amount of revenue they earned from this section of their site. But a few things about this really bother me, and they should bother you, too.

  • Without comment as to the specifics of his activist leanings, for the last few years Craig Newmark (who doesn’t do much day-to-day business management at Craigslist) has been a man-about-town in Washington and the places that Washington muddles with. This feels like he’s rolled over. Lawyers are weighing in; the ads weren’t illegal in this country and the acts that they offer aren’t illegal in many others.
  • Odd as this argument sounds, by getting out of the adult advertisement business Craigslist has opened the door for other, potentially way-less-scrupulous companies to get in. AND THEY WILL.  Whatever you think of those ads or what they sell when Craigslist was running them Craigslist was making a genuine effort at policing the activity behind them; I suspect that successors won’t do that because they don’t have to.
    • Yes, this sounds way too liberal again, but I also think that we’d be better off as a society if marijuana was legalized and the government could tax and oversee it instead of sticking our heads in the sand about its use. Same argument applies to the Craigslist-as-arbiter-of-sex-ads debate
  • The whole thing is a ridiculous conversation. Data is going to be distributed. Good luck legislating (against) that.

I hope Craigslist changes their mind on this one. Whether or not they do, when you encounter them I really hope you’ll look at the issues with a cooler eye than has been applied here.

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