Commentary: Craigslist deserves credit for sex trafficking steps

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

At Craigslist, the Wild West days of anonymous sex trafficking are coming to an end.

The company, to its credit, has signed a voluntary agreement with 40 states – including Washington – that will make it easy for police to track the pimps, prostitutes and johns who’ve flocked to the Web advertising service in recent years.

It’s voluntary, because courts have held that Craigslist is comparable to a telephone company – a neutral conduit of information that can’t be held responsible for the content posted on its sites.

But the company is stepping up to the problem of sex trafficking. Under its agreement with the states, anyone advertising in Craigslist’s "erotic services" section will have to provide a working phone number and pay a fee using a traceable credit card number. Police will be able to easily subpoena the information.

A paradox here is that Craigslist has made both prostitution and police sting operations more efficient. For people in the sex trade, it’s been the new "street." Would-be customers can anonymously peruse "erotic services" ads posted – complete with photos – of hookers. Hookers can choose where to make connections. The convenience is hard to beat.

For the police, too. The nature of Craigslist makes sting operations fairly easy: Decoy hookers can make multiple appointments to catch a string of johns, and police officers working the other end can nab multiple prostitutes and pimps.

To read the complete editorial, visit The News Tribune.