Tag Archives: Craigslist

Sarcasm in the Face of Craigslist Censorship

The Craigslist.com home pages for American cities recently featured something odd: Where the hypertext for adult services would normally reside instead read in striking white lettering over a pitch black field “censored.” Craigslist did this out of its own volition.

“Craigslist could be sending more than one signal — that it was both capitulating to law enforcement and thumbing its nose at it.” noted New York Times contributor Claire Caine Miller in a recent article on Craigslist’s update. The San Francisco-based classifieds website has seen much pressure to stop hosting adult services from both the law and groups who see Craigslist’s accommodating adult classifieds as questionable at best.

After reading through the background of the tug-of-war between Craigslist and the powers-that-be, I am compelled to defend the website’s freedom of speech. I will not say inordinate attention has been paid to the case of the “Craigslist killer” Philip Markoff, a Boston medical student who was charged with robbing and killing Julissa Brisman in 2009 apparently through contact via Craigslist erotic services postings. The argument, though, espousing Craigslist’s shutting down a section of its classifieds out of fear of similar happenings is absurd. Yes, there is danger on the internet; Craigslist is no exception. However, dictating to Craigslist what it can and cannot allow its users to post won’t stop human trafficking, sexual assault, etc. Danger through electronic media must be avoided by the exercising of caution by individuals and through the work of law enforcement. The suppression of future crimes by legislating morality is not, however, an answer. Now there’s a slippery-slope argument: begin shutting down certain sites by the order of public officials for security reasons, and the precedent is set for interfering with private internet content for “questionable” activity.

Is Craigslist doing its part to keep users safe? Craigslist has implemented some measures of its own: in response to publicity from the Craigslist killing, the erotic services section was removed and switched to the more restrictive adult services section. Where posting to most other classified sections is free, Craigslist charged $10 for an adult services ad, and $5 for reposting the ad. Not to mention the fact that Craigslist users could flag inappropriate postings.

Can Craigslist do better? Yes. Is it with in its rights to host adult advertisements? According to most litigation on the state and federal level, yes. As long as there is no imminent danger to the public, there is nothing the government can do, as should be the case. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in his 1919 decision for Schenck v. U.S. famously established the limitations of free speech by designating the false yelling of “fire” in a crowded theatre as an example of impermissible free speech. No one, however, is yelling “fire” here. As for whether Craigslist is capitulating to or thumbing its nose at law enforcement, I have to judge, by the visible manner in which access to adult services has been blocked (as opposed to just quietly a removing the section), that the latter option is more at play.

Vicente Patiño is a sophomore Architecture major

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Student-Launched USFlist Provides Craigslist Alternative

Senior Takuya Oka displays his creation USFlist.org, a new classified ad site just for USF.  Photo by Laura Plantholt/Foghorn
Senior Takuya Oka displays his creation USFlist.org, a new classified ad site just for USF. Photo by Laura Plantholt/Foghorn

Senior business major Takuya Oka might be the next Craig Newmark. Like the San Franciscan internet entrepreneur who founded Craigslist.org, Oka recently founded an online classified site for everything from selling bicycles to finding new roommates and even searching for romance. Unlike Craigslist, however, Oka’s site USFlist.org caters exclusively to USF students.

Oka first felt the need for this site when he wanted to find a roommate last year but didn’t want to search within the entire city; he wanted to live with a fellow student who would reside near campus and share a similar lifestyle. He also wanted to sell some textbooks, but the bookstore wouldn’t buy them and he didn’t want the hassle of selling online. On the Internet, he said, “It’s kind of sketchy. You never know if you can really trust them.”

When his Internet applications class prompted him to create a web-based business, Oka found the perfect opportunity to make his vision a reality. The first half of the class was spent learning how to make a website and the second half was spent actually doing it.

The class came to an end and Oka earned an A on the project, but he wasn’t done. He decided to buy the domain name USFlist.org and put the site online. With a little viral marketing via Facebook and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, the site was launched.

Since the site launched in May, students have used the site primarily for housing and textbooks. Oka said he is happy with the amount of use the site has been getting. Though he cannot see exactly how many transactions have been made, he can see the amount of traffic and who is getting replies on their postings.

Junior Jackie McIntosh recently posted on USFlist seeking to fill the rooms that will be vacant this spring when her roommates study abroad. Using USFlist was ideal for her situation, she said, because she hoped to find students studying abroad this semester who would need housing in the spring. McIntosh said, “I also advertised on Craigslist, but I am hoping that USFlist works out better so that I can deal with USF students rather than strangers.”

Though senior Andrew Ghassemi said he did not have any luck using USFlist when he was searching for textbooks this semester, he sees many advantages to having a USF classified site. “The pros are that you can find specific things or sell things t are related to a like-minded community. Another pro is that you don’t have to travel across the city to get your items, instead you just meet someone on campus.”

Oka said he hopes students learn to utilize all the features of the site. “Student organizations on campus can be utilizing the events section,” he said. Also, the infamous “missed connections” section remains untouched, even though it was requested by one of the members of the USFlist Facebook group.

As of now, Oka has no way of making profits on this business venture. “Craigslist charges for some of their ads, which is how they make money,” Oka said, “But if we charged, no one would use it.” For now, he is maintaining the site for fun. When he graduates, his roommate may take over for him, and after that, he doesn’t know. Later on, Oka said he has considered selling it to another company, or maybe even to the University, depending on interest.