There has been much speculation as to why Craigslist chose to shutter its adult section, in which it was alleged it was a breeding ground for prostitution activity. What is now coming to light is that one woman led a campaign against the exploitation of children on Craigslist, which was the driving force in getting the adult section closed down. For some the thinking was that the critics of Craigslist adult section were being misguided by what they perceived as prudes who were generating hysteria and were attempting to drive the prostitution business to more dangerous locations. Some were also of the opinion that prostitution was a necessary evil that we as a society should just accept and disregard the victims who were being exploited.
But it is now coming to light the role that one woman took to shut down the adult section of Craigslist, not because she was against prostitution, but because of the fact that teenage girls were being exploited for sexual acts in which their adult pimps were profiting. In a recent article it states the following:
Saar tried to get Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s attention. In May, The Rebecca Project bought a half-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle, Newmark’s hometown paper, in which two trafficking victims addressed him personally. One, identifying herself as AK, described how, after getting involved with an older man who she thought was her boyfriend, she “was sold for sex by the hour at truck stops and cheap motels, 10 hours with 10 different men every night.” The other, MC, wrote, “I was first forced into prostitution when I was 11 years old by a 28-year-old man…The man who trafficked me sold many girls my age, his house was called ‘Daddy Day Care.’ All day, me and other girls sat with our laptops, posting pictures and answering ads on Craigslist, he made $1,500 a night selling my body, dragging me to Los Angeles, Houston, Little Rock—and one trip to Las Vegas in the trunk of a car.”
They pleaded with Newmark to shut down the section: “New traffickers are putting up ads every day, because they know it’s less risky and more profitable to sell girls on Craigslist than to deal drugs,” they wrote.
The ease with which trafficking is conducted on Craigslist is at the heart of the problem. No one is under any illusions that shutting down the adult-services section will eliminate prostitution. But it will make things harder for pimps and johns. “A big part of the problem with Craigslist, we believe it actually increased the number of women being put into prostitution,” says Ken Franzblau, director of the anti-trafficking program at the women’s rights NGO Equality Now. Franzblau previously directed anti-trafficking efforts at the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, where most of the domestic trafficking cases he saw involved Craigslist. “Nothing else rivals it,” he says. Certainly, some men will go elsewhere, but perhaps not all. “An awful lot of casual purchasers of sex are not going to know where to find it anymore and are just not going to bother,” Franzblau says.
Yet even after manual screening, there were plenty of Craigslist ads with code words for underage girls. On Craigslist sites outside the U.S. where the adult sections haven’t been shuttered, they’re still easy to find. As I write this, a quick look at Toronto’s Craigslist reveals ads for a “34D School Girl” a “New Girl!!!! yOunG TIGHT curvy HORNY!!” and “Yummy!!! GIRL FOR YOU TO DEFLOWER.”
Unable to persuade Craigslist, Saar and her allies in other anti-trafficking organization enlisted government support. She and AK met with Attorney General Eric Holder, and this month, she worked with the House Judiciary Committee to organize hearings on domestic sex trafficking. A week and a half before the hearings, Craigslist succumbed to pressure and closed its adult-services section on its U.S. sites.
For those who believe that shutting down the adult section on Craigslist was a waste of time, how would you feel if it was your mother, your sister or your daughter who was being exploited to perform sex acts for pay?