Law enforcement must target hookers, not Craigslist
Tom Dart's crusade against Craigslist appears to have come to a close. The Cook County, Ill., sheriff sought to have the online classified site's erotic section shut down, filing suit in federal court to close what he called the "single largest source of prostitution in the nation." He didn't get much help from the judge, however, who dismissed the lawsuit, according to the San Francisco affiliate of NBC.
Dart filed the suit earlier this year, claiming that "Craigslist unabashedly facilitates prostitution, then ultimately makes a profit from it."
U.S. District Judge John F. Grady didn't see it that way. "Sheriff Dart may continue to use Craigslist's Web site to identify and pursue individuals who post allegedly unlawful content," the federal judge wrote in his ruling, "But he cannot sue Craigslist for their conduct." The net result is that law enforcement officials can use Craigslist to investigate prostitution schemes, but the website itself shouldn't be the target.
Craigslist generated an estimated $80 million in 2008 in revenues and is expected to pass $100 million by the end of this year. The company charges a fee of $10 for ads in the "Adult Services" category.
Last November, Craigslist implemented changes for the erotic section of its site, including requiring users to provide a working phone number and supply payment with a valid credit card. The site also pledged to screen ads to prevent those promoting prostitution from being published. It also changed the name of the section from "Erotic Services" to "Adult Services." Dart was not impressed by these measures, which is why he sued.
Shortly after Dart took his case to court, the adult offerings available on Craigslist were thrust into the spotlight, as a result of the "Craigslist killer," who is said to have identified and arranged to meet his victims using classified ads placed on the site.
Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has called Dart's lawsuit a "publicity stunt" and claims that the changes will give the company sufficient control over what is posted.
Still, the battle may not be over. In July, DailyFinance reported that a coalition of 40 attorneys general around the country is exploring options for combating the Craigslist Adult Services operation. Until this yields action, the police will have to rely on, well, traditional police work.