danah boyd: Craigslist's "Adult Services" takedown actually hurts victims of abuse, sex trafficking

In a Huffington Post op-ed, danah boyd argues that pressure to censor Craigslist, which recently resulted in the company's removal of its "adult services" section for users in the United States, actually "helps pimps, child traffickers and other abusive scumbags."
craigslist-american.jpgAs a victim of violence myself, I'm deeply committed to destroying any institution or individual leveraging the sex-power matrix that results in child trafficking, nonconsensual prostitution, domestic violence and other abuses. If I believed that censoring Craigslist would achieve these goals, I'd be the first in line to watch them fall. But from the bottom of my soul and the depths of my intellect, I believe that the current efforts to censor Craigslist's "adult services" achieves the absolute opposite. Rather than helping those who are abused, it fundamentally helps pimps, human traffickers and others who profit off of abusing others.
Read the entire essay here.


  1. “leveraging the sex-power matrix”?

    How can anyone read past that one tragic phrase?

    But then, it’s huff-po; what else can you expect?

    1. You have to leverage the sex-power matrix in order to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricty needed to reverse the polarity on the tachyon emitters.


  2. Pulling that section is a reactionary, silly response. As others pointed out in the other bb post about this issue, legitimate and illegitimate adult service posts are going to get pushed to other cl categories. In addition, the focus on child prostitution is a blatant attempt to polarize the issue.

    It’s a classic ‘see no evil’ approach to law enforcement and ethics. Law enforcement doesn’t want to set up stings or try to enforce the law, so they’ve made it harder for themselves and others to see the evidence of prostitution. Or it’s simply a step by censorship nuts to further restrict free flow of information. Either way, it’s stupid and dangerous.

  3. Same-old, same-old. Go after anything that might help the self-employed in the sex industry and ignore the parasites and abusers. Here in Toronto the cops go after anyone who might be providing security or anonymity to call girls (phone/tech support, chauffeurs/bodyguards) with great vigour; actual pimps and people kidnapping kids off the street – not so much. The former are “low-lying” fruit so you can “boost your (arrest) stats” by concentrating on them: the actual effect on the girls is considered to be irrelevant. This is done via a hilarious interpretation of the “living off the avails of prostitution” statue and there have been lawsuits about this from assorted uniions and madames.

    Actual complains from sex-trade workers about assault or murder and missing persons reports about them are routinely ignored. This always comes out in the inquests that follow the accidental capture of a serial killer specialising in hookers.

    1. Hah, I was just about to link to that same article over on a different URL. For those who haven’t read it, it’s much more accessible than the Huffington Post article. I’m a big fan of Klein’s work.

      1. Promethean Sky, that Klein article isn’t just more accessible, it’s also free of the world-is-falling hysteria. The huff-po article is exactly the sort of over-blown rhetoric of danger Klein is addressing.

  4. I checked my local craigslist, and already the adult ads are appearing in the personals ads. Didn’t take long.

    1. I check Craigslist every day as part of my job hunt. The “creative,” “talent,” and “film/tv/video,” sections just got a bit more crowded.

      1. The reason that Craigslist added the “Adult Services” category in the first place was to get the sex stuff out of all those other sections, a fact that the government regulators tend to ignore.

  5. actually it’s not it’s going to spread it all through the rest of craigslist where thinly disguised ads will take over.

  6. Quoting the article: “most ISPs have a fundamental business — if not moral — interest in helping protect people.”

    That’s some pretty wishful thinking honey. I’ve heard the “we wouldn’t abuse our customers because we have an interest in protecting them” line before.

  7. Let’s be honest: This is all just an attempt to sweep vice under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind. As long as the problem isn’t all that visible, people don’t care. But if it’s so “in your face” that people can’t avoid seeing it, they raise a big stink about it until someone hides it from them. Having a thriving “Adult Services” section on Craigslist just made vice too visible for a lot of people. Removing the “Adult Services” section doesn’t make the vice go away; but it conceals it just enough so that people don’t have to care about it anymore.

    It reminds me of a lecture I recently heard in which the speaker was talking about the shanty towns that formed on the outskirts of most big cities during the Industrial Revolution as poor farmers began to migrate from the countryside to factory towns in search of work. This growing urban squalor inspired a number of social reformers — especially Marx and Engels — to condemn capitalism for producing such poverty. But the speaker pointed out that it wasn’t capitalism that produced this poverty: The poverty already existed. Capitalism just moved the poverty from the rural countryside, where it was invisible to most city dwellers, into the urban slums, where it became painfully visible to everyone. As long as the poor lived on farms, many miles from the cities, the problem of poverty could be ignored. But when that poverty moved in practically next door to decent, middle class city folk, it suddenly become a problem that required an urgent solution — and, for many, a revolutionary solution.

  8. Interesting quote Re: Law enforcement and the Internet, that I think goes a long way to underscoring the good of a free information society.

    “The Internet had made it a lot easier for them to find criminals, but that didn’t make their jobs any easier because they were now aware of how many more victims they were unable to help.”

    On another topic: Some of my own work has brought me into contact with Dr. boyd’s research, consequently I have a great deal of respect for her work. It’s strange to see her writing for HufPo, who tend to be short on the details and long on emotional appeal. Hopefully she’ll be good for them.

  9. I have an “Ikea bed” for “$50” under “furniture”. If you know what I mean. “Pick up, cash only”.

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