CNN reports today:
Adult services censored on Craigslist
Online classified service Craigslist’s decision to censor its adult services section could be a model for other websites, a leader in the fight against prostitution ads said Saturday.
“This step is very much in the right direction,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who spearheaded a letter from 17 attorneys general who recently banded together to urge Craigslist to discontinue its adult services section…
“These prostitution ads enable human trafficking and assaults on women,” said Blumenthal. “They are flagrant and rampant. Craigslist has lacked the wherewithal or will to effectively screen them out.”
The section that usually reads “adult services” on Craigslist was replaced by the word “censored.”
…In their letter, the attorneys general highlighted an open letter, which appeared as a Washington Post ad, in which two girls said they were sold for sex on Craigslist…
Earlier this month, [CNN’s Amber] Lyon interviewed a woman named “Jessica” who sells sex on Craigslist. The woman said a Craigslist ad was “the fastest, quickest way you’re for sure going to see somebody that day.”
In an August 30 blog post, Criagslist CEO Jim Buckmaster responds to Amber Lyon’s request for an interview:
I see you’ve now gotten around to requesting an interview with me or a company spokesperson, 90 days after you ambushed our namesake and founder, Craig Newmark, following his May 20th talk on veteran’s affairs and other issues unrelated to craigslist, at a conference in Washington.
You knew Craig was not in management or a company spokesperson, but setting CNN’s ethical code aside, you sidestepped company channels in favor of ambushing our semi-retired founder, complete with a misleading “set up” for your surprise questions. Now that CNN has aired your highly misleading piece dozens of times, mischaracterizing your stunt as a serious interview on this subject, and you’ve updated your “bio” to showcase this rare jewel of investigative journalism, you’re ready to try actually interviewing the company itself on this subject.
There is a class of “journalists” known for gratuitously trashing respected organizations and individuals, ignoring readily available facts in favor of rank sensationalism and self-promotion. They work for tabloid media. Your stunt has veteran news pros we know recoiling in journalistic horror, some of them chalking it up to a decline in CNN’s standards, which is unfortunate…
In an August 28 blog post, Craig Newmark apparently believes that it’s possible to distinguish between “legitimate versus illegitimate adult service ads”.
Legal or illegal, prostitution is just plain bad for women, minors, and society as a whole.
Los Angeles Times: “Craigslist says it won’t resume adult services advertising” (9/16/10)
Craigslist has no plans to bring back the controversial adult services category that was on its classified advertising website, a company official told Congress on Wednesday…
In the last six months, there has been a steep increase in the number of U.S. adolescent girls advertised for commercial sex on the Internet, [Deborah Richardson, chief program officer for the Women’s Funding Network] said. Linda Smith, a former congresswoman who now heads the nonprofit Shared Hope group that provides rehabilitation for women and children involved in sex trafficking, said, “I have not had a girl that wasn’t marketed online, and most of them were on Craigslist.”
At least 100,000 children in the United States are involved in commercial sex every year and the average age at which girls enter prostitution is 13, Smith said.
The brothel prostitutes often live in prison-like conditions, locked in or forbidden to leave…
The rooms all have panic buttons, but many women told her that they had experienced violent and sexual abuse from the customers and pimps…
…[a] pimp told Farley matter-of-factly that many of the women working for him had histories of sexual abuse and mental ill-health. “Most,” he said, “have been sexually abused as kids. Some are bipolar, some are schizophrenic.”
…The women are expected to live in the brothels and to work 12- to 14-hour shifts…
Farley found that the brothel owners typically pocket half of the women’s earnings. Additionally, the women must pay tips and other fees to the staff of the brothel… One former Nevada brothel worker wrote on a website: “After your airline tickets, clothing, full-price drinks and other miscellaneous fees you leave with little. To top it off, you are … fined for just about everything. Fall asleep on your 14-hour shift and get $100 [£50] fine…
More than 80% of those interviewed told Farley they wanted to leave prostitution…
Meanwhile, illegal brothels are on the increase in Nevada, as they are in other parts of the world where brothels are legalised. Nevada’s illegal prostitution industry is already nine times greater than the state’s legal brothels. “Legalising this industry does not result in the closing down of illegal sex establishments,” says Farley, “it merely gives them further permission to exist.”
Mr. Vannah concedes that “there is some percentage of people who are not willing participants in the sex industry”, but believes that if the Advocate refuses to accept Massage/Escort ads, this will unacceptably crimp “artistic freedom”. He mentions Mapplethorpe pictures as an example. How dropping ads for commercial sex enterprises will compel the Advocate to turn away Mapplethorpe pictures is not clear to us.
…the First Amendment does not transform an illegal activity into a legal or acceptable one. In Orlando, police investigators report that “We’ve never called anyone dealing with these ads who was not providing prostitution services.” It is almost certainly the case that many, if not most of the Massage/Escort ads in the Advocate are promoting illegal businesses. How else can a person reasonably interpret an ad that promotes “FOREIGN FANTASIES…Everything Goes…InOut…GFE”, where GFE means “girl friend experience”? (According to MSNBC, the full “girl friend experience” can entail “sex without condoms”.)
Did the publisher of the Orlando Weekly claim that the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, which busted them for aiding prostitution, was motivated by the Weekly’s past criticism of the MBI? Sure, and we didn’t make that claim hard to find. We linked to a story about it in the “See Also” section of this post. The fact remains that the Orlando Weekly does appear to have aided and profited from prostitution. To complain about the motivation of the police is an attempt at distraction, as are Mr. Vannah’s claims that we care more about attracting attention to ourselves than to the issue. There are many, many less stressful ways to attract attention to ourselves, ways that won’t invite people to call us “fascists” and hope we leave town. We do this work because someone needs to care…
If we have failed to exercise “due diligence” or the “proper steps”, as Mr. Vannah claims, we would be happy to know just what those steps are. We invited Mr. Vannah to dialogue with us privately last year. We received no response. There are over 45 articles in our Prostitution category. How much evidence does Mr. Vannah require before conceding the obvious, that the Advocate almost certainly abets and profits from prostitution, and that prostitution is a miserable and dangerous job for most women?
…While a few women may choose a life of prostitution in a truly voluntary fashion, the reality for most is a history of sexual and/or child abuse, separation from their family and/or country, and poverty. Addictions to drugs or alcohol are common. They are routinely lied to, coerced, abused, threatened, and blackmailed (e.g. ‘I’ll hurt your family back in the Ukraine if you don’t cooperate’).
When a “progressive” outlet like the Advocate runs ads for commercial sex enterprises, it not only publicizes them but legitimizes them. It also puts a big dent in the Advocate’s moral authority. If the Advocate truly wants to be a friend to underdogs, it needs to side with them over callous profiteers.
Sweden’s successful experience with combating prostitution is worth studying. Not only have they improved conditions for a badly oppressed group of women, their campaign has produced benefits in other areas. Quoting Marie De Santis, director of the Women’s Justice Center/Centro de Justicia Para Mujeres, “Sweden’s law enforcement community has found that the prostitution legislation benefits them in dealing with all sex crimes, particularly in enabling them to virtually wipe out the element of organized crime that plagues other countries where prostitution has been legalized or regulated.”
Prostitution is not a “victimless” crime, nor should it be seen in isolation from other criminal activity. A business that cares about women and the community should not seek profits from prostitution. The only effective rebuttal Mr. Vannah could make is to prove to us that every Massage/Escort ad in the Advocate is for a legitimate, non-exploitative business. For all his heated rhetoric, this he does not do, nor do we think he can.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune in April 2008, a comprehensive 2004 mortality study, conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that workplace homicide rates for women working in prostitution are 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women (which is working in a liquor store) and the average age of death of the women studied was 34.
In one study, 75 percent of women in escort prostitution had attempted suicide and prostituted women comprised 15 percent of all completed suicides reported by hospitals…
“I don’t see a First Amendment issue here,” Lutz said. “This is strictly an advertising company making money off of prostitution.”
And so its press release yammers on about how our freedoms are “under attack by the Bush administration,” and makes NOW sound like the Taliban, and finally trots out the same pathetic excuse New York once made: “If there is evidence that any advertiser in our pages engaged in…sex slavery…” Blah blah blah.
It’s hard to be part of the solution, when you’re part of the problem.