The Oldest Profession

You’re thinking I’m talking about the ladies of the night? Well, in a way I am, as you’ll see.  Today’s post is about the Craigslist controversy.  As you may have read, a number of states attorneys general have decided to get some publicity by singling out the online classified site for its “erotic services” section. From what I gather, a number of escorts, “masseuses” and plain old hookers use the site to troll for clients. Easier than standing on a corner, I guess, although the principle is the same. Initially, the AG in South Carolina was the most vocal about this although Connecticut and six other states are going down the same path of forcing Craigslist to stop publishing these ads OR ELSE! Craigslist, of their own volition, made some changes to make it more difficult for illegal activity to occur.

Following my practice here of not discussing things from a political point of view, I won’t dwell on whether legal prostitution is good or bad. However, it’s not known as the oldest profession without cause.  It’s a product with high, steady demand and the fact that it’s illegal almost everywhere in the US hasn’t stopped it from being a huge business.

So here’s my point. Fighting technology won’t work, even if the law is on your side and in this case it isn’t.  These are lawyers we’re talking about, right? Well, you’d think they’d know that the federal Communications Decency Act says that Web sites aren’t responsible for posts created by users that violate state law.   I know there are laws about aiding and abetting, but it seems to me that the AG’s are ignoring a basic business fact – if people want something and are willing to pay for it, someone else is going to make a living providing it to them.   Going after Craigslist or, as the AG here in Connecticut says, “other sites” that house ads for illicit services is not going to change that fact.  Online gambling is supposed to be illegal here is the US.  Anyone think you can’t gamble online?

Putting aside the basic truths of demand and supply, I’m disturbed that digital technology is being singled out.  What about all of the print publications,  including the one right there in Hartford, Mr. AG, that have always carried these ads?  While these guys believe they’re going after illegal activities, the reality is that they’re going after technology.  Seems to me that was the mistake the music business made.  Instead of pushing Craigslist to do more, why not congratulate them on what they’ve done, issue your self-congratulatory press release, and move on?  You certainly can’t stop the technology.

Maybe we’re looking at the wrong folks trying to garner attention here?  What do you think – but leave politics out of it!

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