Craigslist told the House Judiciary Committee today that it had closed its sex ads section forever. William Clinton Powell, Customer Relations Director of the online ad site, said the suspension on September 4 has been made permanent.
At that time, Craigslist put a “censored” banner where the link to the ads normally appeared and refused to respond to press inquiries or clarify further. The company had been made a scapegoat for sexual abuse by activists and politicians, including a cadre of state attorneys general, as well as the traditional media.
Peace sign or white flag?
We mentioned in an earlier post that the use of the “censored” graphic, along with the refusal to speak, seemed petulant, more than anything else. That petulance continued with Powell’s remarks.
“Those who formerly posted adult services ads on Craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues.”
Critics of the move have pointed out that public sex ads allow law enforcement to monitor potential victimizers of children. Others, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, pointed out that there is no question of the legality of ads with sexual contents.
Clearly, Craigslist’s actions and the testimony of Powell indicate the company does not believe in the rightness of what it has chosen to do. It is a private company, and it is certainly entitled to yield to its critics while playing the wounded faun at the same time, but it doesn’t make it any less unappealing and morally ambiguous.
On the economic side of things, the sex section’s closure may cost the company $44 million per year in lost revenue. With Craigslist having previously captured nearly 70 percent of the $63 million of sex ad revenue total, that gives other sites an unobstructed grab at a lot of money.
What are the chances that the inheritors of this sex ad traffic will be as concerned with child trafficking as Craigslist was?