danah boyd on Craigslist Censorship and Lighting Dark Places

If you work in data security, you know what a honey pot is--it's a place where you can lure the bad guys in, because it looks like a place that you can do bad stuff and get away with it.  When you bring all the bad guys to one place, that gives you the best opportunity to catch them.  In the real world, though, that presents some problems.  Fake data doesn't really catch people in the meatspace.  Sometimes, the police have to buy guns, drugs, etc. to bring down whole operations--maybe even do some other things we don't like to think about.

Enter Craigslist--an online marketplace for a lot of things we really don't like to think about.  Enter the New American Wack-a-Mole Way.  We point at things we don't like and complain about them until someone presents a psychologically satisfying, yet utterly superficial and ineffective solution.  Instead of taking the time to understand the nuances of issues, we demand immediate action.  Prostitution is bad, so let's close the adult services section of Craigslist so it will go away, right?  It's not like prostition has the record for "Careers that predate the internet" or anything. 

As danah boyd writes, "Censoring Craigslist will do absolutely nothing to help those being victimized, but it will do a lot to help those profiting off of victimization...Taking something that is visible and making it invisible makes a politician look good, even if it does absolutely nothing to help the victims who are harmed. It creates the illusion of safety, while signaling to pimps, traffickers, and other scumbags that their businesses are perfectly safe as long as they stay invisible."

If you're ready to think about the complexities of the Craigslist Censorship issue, you'll read more here.