Dear Craig Newmark,
You finally responded to the open letter written by survivors who were trafficked for sex on your website. Thank you for reading their open letter which, as you know, we originally posted almost three months ago in the San Francisco Chronicle.
We were however very disappointed by your response to AK and MC's open letter. Craig, where is your apology? The Craigslist "adult services" section has made it less risky to sell a girl online than it is to force her to walk the streets. Craig, where is your outrage that your site is being used to commit such horrible crimes? With your "adult services" section you have made it much easier for traffickers to exploit children behind closed doors. You claim criminal misuse is rare, however recent studies have shown that Craigslist is by far the most efficient medium for advertising sex with young females; ads on your site received three times as many responses compared to identical ads placed on other sites. We recognize that Craigslist is an innovative company; we just thought you would be willing to take a more aggressive approach to protect the children in the communities you serve.
While we appreciate the work you have done so far, our argument has always been that it is simply not enough. The Rebecca Project and the girl survivors appeal to your sense of morality, and we hoped that your response would be quite different. Sex trafficking affects as many as 300,000 American children a year and, whether you like it or not, Craigslist plays a major role in this industry. We are asking you to take responsibility, ownership and adequate action for the website that bears your name. On numerous occasions you've cited the measures Craigslist has taken to address child sex trafficking. However, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has said that there were less than 50 reports in 2009. How is this possible if you are manually screening every ad on a website that boasts millions of users and billions of transactions? With Craigslist operating in all 50 states and internationally, the fact that less than 50 cases have been reported illustrates that your manual screening is inadequate.
Finally, we want to remind you that the victims here are young girls, usually between the ages of 11 and 14. The victims are underage girls and vulnerable children, lured or kidnapped from their homes by traffickers. Your website enables sex trafficking by allowing these men to sell the girls online. Your website connects the child victims to men who physically and sexually abuse the girls. This is a reality for not only AK and MC, but for hundreds of girls in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam. Simply put, we are appalled that you are requesting the police reports from young victims as proof of their trauma. But Craig, your close relationship with law enforcement should make you well aware of these facts and we urge you to respect victims' rights and remove your requests for police reports from your websites and blog.
Craig, if this were a bar and children were being raped in the basement we would close the bar down to protect the children. We are asking you to do what's right, close down the adult services section until you have an effective solution that ensures children will not be bought and sold online. When asked for a comment, the President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told us, "Craigslist has taken steps, including requiring credit card validation, screening ads, reporting suspicious ads to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and cooperating with law enforcement investigations. Yet, American kids continue to be marketed and sold online for sex. The problem is not declining, it is growing. The goal is to end this insidious 'industry.' Craigslist needs to do more, and every other online classifieds company needs to join them."
Craig, please join us in fighting these criminals together and lead your industry in this fight.
Follow Malika Saada Saar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Rebecca Project