November 25, 2008

No More Happy Endings For Craigslist?

It was recently announced that Craigslist, that oh-so-familiar site of cheap stuff and missed connections, will start charging to place "erotic services" ads.

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It was recently announced by both the New York Times and the San Francisco Gate that Craigslist, that oh-so-familiar site of cheap couches and appliances or amusing missed connections ads, will start charging vendors to place “erotic services” ads. The effort to place these restrictions, spearheaded by Richard Blumenthal, attorney general of Connecticut, hopes to curb the illegal activity of sex work taking place through ads placed on Craigslist, a form of conduct banned by Craigslist the terms of use.

Currently, Craigslist only charges for job and housing listing in certain cities (NY, San Francisco) and still maintains its “non-corporate” culture and says it will donate fees from the “erotic services” ads to charities. The cost of placing the ads, payable only via credit card (another addition to the paper trail), would add to the current requirements of having a telephone number which can be called using computer software.

So what does this mean for the average user of Craigslist? Not much.The site is still almost entirely free and useful for selling old stuff, letting people know about your garage sale, or trying to find a used digital camera. How does it relate to sex? Besides the fact that the changes are directly tied to the complicated issues around sex work in the United States, I don’t think it’s unfair to take the next step and ask when Craigslist might start regulating other parts of its website such as “missed connections” or “casual encounters,” where people might go to find sex partners.

Either way, it’s an interesting development to a very popular website and something to keep an eye on in the future.

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