Doug Kelley was perplexed when Craigslist ads for his Sacramento carpet-cleaning business started disappearing from the popular Web site. Every time he re-posted one of his classified ads, it would vanish often within minutes. After competitors' ads started showing up, some of them openly denigrating his company, West Coast Carpet Care, Kelley knew he had a problem. Since then, Kelley estimates he has spent $11,000 in attorney's and court fees fighting his online business adversaries.
Like other small businesses worldwide using the free classified Web site, Kelley stumbled last year onto a little-known dark side of Craigslist. Some critics say it's a situation where anything goes, including slanderous attacks and competitors ejecting each other's ads in a process called "flagging."
Using conventional software to circumvent Craigslist rules, some individuals have figured out how to quash competition by removing ads of their rivals, whether they're house-cleaning services or real estate sellers. Craigslist employs an automatic tool that yanks offensive or false ads if enough different users flag them. The problem: Single users can cheat the system with software that makes the flagging appear to be from multiple users.
Read the full story at sacbee.com.