Monday, August 30, 2010

Craigslist and Sexual Services

In January I attended a non-profit leadership conference where Lynn Lukow, the Executive Director of the Craigslist Foundation, spoke about the charitable contributions made by the website’s partner foundation. He focused his lecture on how Craigslist believes that strong communities are the cornerstone for a better society, how their company wants to do the most good for the most amount of people, how advocating for fair wages and decent jobs should be the focus of what they labeled themselves as the “independent sector.” Lukow also mentioned how Craigslist asks themselves over and over, “Are we doing the right thing?” He said if they find that they are not, then they need to regroup.

During the question and answer period at the end of his speech, I nervously stepped up the microphone and asked why, with all their attempts at building strong communities and their focus on “thinking holistically,” did they continue to allow the buying and selling of sexual services on their website? Did this really fit into their goals toward community development?

For years Craigslist has been under fire for allowing erotic services to be posted on their website. Most recently, the website has been blamed for the creation and growth of prostitution rings – some involving underage girls and boy - in several cities, including my most recent place of residence, Kansas City, Missouri.

Lukow replied, extremely flustered might I add, that Craigslist does not allow illegal activity to be sold on their website. But if illegal services are offered, there is very little they can do to stop the activity because so much is being bought and sold on Craigslist that it is nearly impossible to censor everything.

I asked if this was a moral dilemma for a foundation that prides themselves on utilitarian ideals. He said that Craigslist believes that communities can decide for themselves what should be bought and sold in their communities.

This comment was insinuating – hopefully unintentionally- that if a community decides that it is permissible to sell the sexual services of boys, girls, men and women then they should be allowed to do this through their website.

As one might expect, Lukow was regarded as a complete flop after these rushed, almost incoherent and false statements. His responses were counterproductive and caused an entire conference of 700 young people to think twice before visiting his website.

All across America, people are learning more about the injustices spread through Craigslist. They are boycotting it, using other websites like as a replacement. This movement has taken root and is beginning to make profound change.

Today in the news, there is a movement to stop the “Adult Services” portion of the website.


  1. Excellent post - please view our site for more details on craigslist and their complicity in human trafficking of American children..........

  2. This is excellent!! Our organization is also working actively to expose Craigslist's refusal to remove their "adult services" section that openly advertises the commercial sexual exploitation of male and female adults and children (adding an annual profit of approximately $36 million for the company). Their refusal to incorporate appropriate screening and safe guard measures (like something as simple as a report abuse button to each add) is ridiculous and a clear indication that profit building is more important than community building for this company. Way to call them out!!!