Sex Files Nov 1 2008
SEX.ORG
Did Craigslist aid and abet prostitution, or was the website victimized by working girls?


Is Craigslist the new millenium’s red light district? Eight prostitutes were arrested in NYC last month for using the online site to solicit johns, bringing the year’s total of busted women to more than 70. In Chicago 60 women were netted. In Seattle a sting using undercover police officers nabbed 71 men, including a bank officer and a surgeon. And in Jacksonville, Fla., in August police arrested 33 men.

Nassau County, NY, assistant chief of detectives Richard McGuire put it bluntly: “Craigslist has become the high-tech 42nd Street, where much of the solicitation takes place now. Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest.” Lt. Eric Sano, of the Seattle PD, describes a complex subculture exposed by his department’s sting operation, in which men are referred to as “hobbyists” and prostitutes are “providers”. There are even online review “sites where men rate their experiences and describe a woman’s looks and the sex acts she’s willing to perform, Sano said.

While law enforcement officials accuse Craigslist of enabling prostitution, company president Jim Buckmaster points out that 24 staff members cannot monitor 20 million listings per month. They count on users to flag objectionable ads. But cops ask how many users who navigate their way into the “erotic services” section of Craiglist are likely to flag ads. It’s a bit like asking a gambler to report his bookie.

Under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 the ads are legal and several websites—including Craigslist—have withstood legal challenges. “You hold the speaker liable, not the soapbox,” explains Kurt B. Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Mr. Buckmaster agrees, saying that Craigslist is no different from magazines that carry sex-oriented ads. But law enforcement officials say Craigslist’s scope and format are especially useful to the sex industry. With listings for approximately 450 cities around the world, the website counts 25 million users and 8 billion page views a month. Online traffic ranker Alexa calculates Craigslist is currently the thirty-seventh most visited website in the world.

Craig Newmark, above, who founded Craigslist in San Francisco in 1995, has his own take on the matter. “We are a democracy,” he explains, “and we find we can trust our community. We would prefer that [police] go after violent criminals or crooked congressmen.” Many agree with Newmark that prostitution is a minor or even victimless crime, but Lt. Sano doesn’t see it that way: “No young girl grows up dreaming of doing this. It is easy money …but these women are being exploited and it’s degrading. You should hear what some of these guys have asked our detectives to do—it’s disgusting.”

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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