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Craigslist Is Like the Wal-Mart of Online Sex Trafficking

September 14, 2010

Immediate, please sign:
Tell Craigslist to Make REAL Change in the Adult Services Section of Craigslist!

From Change.Org
By Amanda Kloer

Last night, CNN ran a huge story about child sex trafficking on Craigslist, making them one of the first major news outlets to report child sexual exploitation on the popular website on such a scale. Will coverage from major news outlets finally get Craigslist to respond to the almost 10,000 letters they’ve gotten? Will you add your name to tell Craigslist that America is fed up with story after story after story of young girls forced into prostitution on their site?

As part of an interview with CNN, Andrea Powell of anti-trafficking NGO FAIR Fund compared Craigslist with Walmart. And she couldn’t be more right. Both Craigslist and Walmart get high foot traffic from massive numbers of Americans — Craigslist by at least 50 million Americans a year and Walmart by more. Both cut costs by bringing goods directly to customers, though in Craigslist’s case those “goods” are too often trafficked girls as opposed to cheap crap made in Cambodian sweatshops. And both are now the subject of growing boycotts. But more importantly, Craigslist has become as ubiquitous a place to buy sex with a 12-year-old girl as Walmart has to buy a stainless steel napkin holder at 11:30 at night.

Last month, two young girls sold for sex on Craigslist wrote letters to CEO Jim Buckmaster and Craig Newmark. One of them, M.C. who was first forced into prostitution at 11, told them she was forced to post her own ads to Craigslist during the day, and then answer them at night. Her pimp drove her around the country for years, using Craigslist as the primary means to advertise her. If she didn’t post on Craigslist, M.C.’s pimp would beat her and dunk her in ice water baths. The website was a central figure in the years of slavery and abuse she suffered.

No one from Craigslist has responded to M.C.’s letter.

Craigslist has made nominal, cosmetic changes to the way they advertise for adult services. But they haven’t been successful in visibly reducing the number of young children sold for sex on their site. And they haven’t been remotely transparent about how they supposedly screen ads. Craigslist has defended themselves by claiming other sites advertise sex trafficked children too, which is true. And trafficking victims are still sold through escort agencies, strip clubs, and on the streets. But just like it’s hard to ignore a Walmart full of $0.99 can openers in order to shop at Joe’s Local Can Opener Emporium, it’s hard to ignore a Craigslist blanketed with exploited kids for the handful found other places.

Craigslist is a leader in their industry, and with that success (like the $36 million they made off adult ads last year) comes responsibility. It’s time they took that responsibility and became an industry leader in the fight against child sex trafficking. Because right now, the example they’re setting is one of apathy, greed, and indifference to human suffering.

Would child prostitution exist if Craigslist no longer facilitated it? Yes. Would it be much harder and more expensive for pimps to sell kids and for men looking to have sex with kids to find them? Yes. Will it mean 11-year-old girls like M.C. don’t have to spend their teen years advertising for their own rape? Hopefully.

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