CEO Feels Bad About Craigslist Killer
Speaking on CNN this morning, Craigslist CEO, Jim Buckmaster says he feels terribly that his online service was used to target victims.
“We’re horrified that use of Craigslist could in any way be connected with a violent crime of this nature. It just causes us to redouble our efforts to try to get across to users to take a few common sense precautions that eliminate most of the risks.”
Boston University medical student Philip Markoff has been arraigned on murder, kidnapping and armed robbery charges. He allegedly found young women through ads on Craigslist, an online bulletin board, one of the country’s largest vendors for sex services.
Known for its ads for used furniture and real estate, increasingly Craigslist is being used to promote erotic services. Ads are placed behind a screen and the increased traffic has reportedly boosted revenue for the online site to $81 million last year, according to Peter Zollman, a classified industry analyst.
Buckmaster said they are examining the way the site is set up to see if there is some incremental change to make the site safer.
This is just the latest in a number of incidents involving Craigslist ads.
In March, WABC Radio newsman, George Weber met his killer, who had a knife fetish, after the 16-year-old responded to an ad for rough sex placed on Craigslist.
In 2007, a young Minnesota woman was killed responding to a Craigslist ad for a babysitting job.
So many crimes are being committed with the help of Craigslist that an unemployed medical accountant, Trench Reynolds, has begun a Web site devoted to criminal activity surrounding Craigslist, including murders, prostitution raids, arrests, and killings. No word on whether Reynolds verifies for accuracy all of the reports he receives.
Last November, pressure from 40 states attorneys, concerned about child prostitution and trafficking on Craigslist, put pressure on the site to cooperate with law enforcement. Since then, sex ads must be secured with a fee of $5 or $10, paid with a credit card. The proceeds are donated to charity and Craigslist has a way for police to track a suspect individual.
Conduit to Predators?
CNN’s John Roberts asks whether Craigslist is a conduit for predators?
“There are five million Americans using Craigslist every month” says Buckmaster. “Whenever you have that amount of human activity there is a possibility of something going on, but no incident is obviously okay.”
Why allow sex services to be advertised at all?
Buckmaster: “Back in 2005 our users saw these kinds of ads being posted across the site. They asked us to set up a dedicated category where these ads could live and be put behind a warning screen. So we ended up doing what telephone yellow pages and newspaper classifieds have typically done over the decades and that is havie a dedicated category for these types of ads. One of the differences with Craigslist is that 100 percent of the net revenues goes to charity.”
Remove Erotic Services
The Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley did not join the AG petition because she felt it condoned illegal activity on Craigslist.
"I can't say they haven't been helpful. On the other hand, they are the enablers," Coakley said to Boston.com. "It's all well and good to say we'll help when we're called upon . . . but in light of what's happened in Boston and around the country, it may be time for a little closer look or oversight."
The Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, has asked Craigslist to remove the erotic services portion of the online site.
“I don't remember a lot of us gathering in the town square for a dope dealer who turns in another dope dealer," Dart said. "It's abundantly clear what's going on Craigslist and what's being advertised. All I'm asking them to do is either monitor it appropriately or stop it, and they have no interest in doing either.”
In Massachusetts, police posted ads for erotic services and ended up arresting 50 people.
Buckmaster says Craigslist does not condone illegal activity and they try to prevent it in the erotic services category.
“We adopted telephone verification, credit card verification. Those two steps eliminated about 90 percent of the inappropriate activity on the site. We’re now chipping away at the remaining 10 percent.”
Buckmaster says police have helped spot criminal activity and root it out, “which we really appreciate”.
Cooperating with Police
Matt Zimmerman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the credit cards can be used to help trace suspected criminals but suggests Craigslist not cooperate without a subpoena.
Online sites are protected from charges of illegal activity under a 1996 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Act ruling that gives Craigslist and other sites immunity from prosecution for the content posted on its site. #