With the news today that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has successfully pressured Craigslist founder Craig Newmark into self-regulating erotic services ads, we should ask ourselves: why is (or is) this a good thing?
Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason says she doesn't thing it's all that great for women.
The fact is that booking clients online and controlling the circumstances of the rendezvous probably made prostitutes and other users of the site much safer than they would otherwise have been-it's a little tougher to google a guy you just picked up on a side street by leaning into the window of his car. So this is probably a net loss for the safety of the sexually adventurous and/or those who like their sex with a little capitalism mixed in.
While I disagree that people seek out paid sex acts for ideological reasons or just because they like "adventure," many prostitutes do, apparently, utilize Craigslist for the ease of the transactions and the ability to potentially track down clients.
As Hunter Walker at WebNewser points out, though, shutting down the Erotic Services boards (which already cost money to advertise on) will likely do little to stop sex workers from using the site to target potential clients.
Ads for prostitution regularly appear on other areas of Craigslist and getting rid of "erotic services" shouldn't make much of a difference. Today, a quick scan through the first few ads in Craigslist's "casual encounters" personals page for New York revealed multiple posts that were clearly advertising illicit services.
So, then, why do it? Well, Madigan and other prosecutors have been trying for ages to get founder Craig Newmark to better police his boards with regards to prostitution advertisements. Law enforcement has been known to respond to potential advertisements to arrest prostitutes. But with the arrest of the so-called Craigslist killer, politicians and the media finally had a point of leverage against Newmark. They're going after it now under the guise of protecting us ladies from all those big, bad men out there that will try to hurt us. Never mind that prostitutes advertise in other ways, or that the big bad men that are supposedly answering the ads for paid sexual services are the supposed predators: they're going to go after the women (and sometimes men) that supposedly need protecting. They're wrapping their law enforcement strategy in a big, old, paternalistic blanket! Don't you feel warm?