Home > Solution-Problem, Unintended Consequences > Craiglist stops linking to ads for “erotic services.” Prostitution magically goes away.

Craiglist stops linking to ads for “erotic services.” Prostitution magically goes away.

After someone murdered a woman and attacked two others that he met through Craigslist, the bare-bones, usually free online advertising site, attorneys general from 18 states decided that an easy way to get publicity a good way to crack down on illegal prostitution would be by shutting down the site used by 50 million people worldwide.  In response to this blatant overreaction, Craigslist has replaced its “erotic services” link with a black box containing the word “Censored.”  Naturally, this will have an effect that is the opposite of the one intended by the publicity hounds public servants behind the outcry.

Given that prostitution existed and thrived before Craigslist, before the internet, and before recorded history (it is the world’s oldest profession, after all), one could very reasonably conclude that these attorneys general are tilting at windmills.  According to the Post:

“They lack either the will or the wherewithal to effectively screen for prostitution ads. Which is why we [said] to them, ‘Shut down the site,'” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), one of 18 attorneys general who made that demand in a letter to Craigslist last month. He added, “we hope that their example in doing the right thing will lead others to follow them.”

Perversely, however, pushing prostitution to the streets removes a level of control over the situation and a level of comparative safety from a black-market profession that is sorely lacking in both.  Are we to believe that it is less likely that prostitutes will be exploited, attacked, or even killed if they are plying their trades on the dark alleys of skid row?  How is it that the extra level of protection inherent in the “screening system” of cyber-connection is, on balance, a bad thing?

If we are to assume that prostitution will magically disappear with the removal of certain links from Craigslist, then this is indeed a reasonable action.  If, however, we recognize reality, a completely different scenario emerges.  It is axiomatic that where one avenue is closed down, traffic will simply accumulate elsewhere. 

The sex traffic is a constant; it seems to be part of the human condition that a subset of people desires to either buy or sell sex.  Removing a layer of safety from the transaction will result in more cases like the “Craigslist Killer” rather than less.  Of course, since Craigslist is now out of the game, we’ll have to come up with a snappy new name for them.  “Back Alley Butcher” anyone?  Your suggestions in the comments, perhaps?

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