I’m quite certain that Craig Newmark, Jim Buckmaster and Craigslist in general don’t need me to come to their defense, but this whole Amber Lyon thing is making me flip my lid.

When a vapid, half-ass excuse for a journalist tries to make a name for herself by ambushing one of the nicest guys in the tech industry it really pisses me off.

I’ve lived in New York City for the past 12 years and I will openly admit my bias for Craigslist. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve used Craigslist to find every single apartment or house I’ve ever lived in, every single roommate I’ve ever lived with and every single piece of electronic equipment I’ve ever sold has all been on Craigslist. Each time it cost me absolutely nothing.

A decade after incorporating Craigslist and the only thing they’re interested in is helping people. In a corporate climate where companies openly profit from the deaths of American Servicemen and Women, I’d say that behavior should be lauded not attacked.

In December 2006, at the UBS Global Media Conference in New York, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit, instead it prefers to help users find cars, apartments, jobs, and dates. Name one other company with the user base and traffic that Craigslist has that can say that, just one.

Do people post incredibly fucked up, despicable shit on Craigslist? Yes, of course. They also make it easier than any other site out there to report those kinds of violations along with policing the site themselves. If you were seriously interested in anything but 15 minutes of fame and some face time on CNN then it would have been much more constructive to approach Mr. Newmark with your idea for a story to not only see what he had to say about what they were doing to prevent these sorts of posts, but to also present your own ideas in a respectful way.

Let’s also be clear that while Craigslist is a for-profit organization they didn’t start charging for Adult Services ads until almost ten years after they launched. The fact that they’re even charging for the ads at all is part of an agreement they made with 40 state attorneys general in 2008 to allow the site to have more control over the content that was being published in that section. Let’s not make it out like Craig Newmark made his mark by walking around San Francisco in a fur coat with 12-year-old hookers in tow. You’re attacking a man who has provided an inestimable amount of goodwill and services to tens, if not hundreds of millions of people around the world. You’re taking the sum of a man’s work that is 99% decent and valuable and, through no direct fault of his own, is being used by sick individuals to do unthinkable things.

Under the broader agreement announced Thursday, Craigslist is going further, asking that advertisers provide valid identification. It said that it will charge erotic services vendors a small fee for each ad — $5 to $10, Mr. Buckmaster said — and require that they use a credit card for the payment. This, theoretically, will let the company confirm users’ identities. It will donate the money to charities, including those that combat child exploitation and human trafficking.

On Wednesday, Craigslist also sued a variety of companies offering services designed to circumvent its protections.

Ms. Lyon, your Twitter profile says, “I live to expose corruption and love helping others.” In case you haven’t looked around lately were up to our eyeballs in corruption in this country. Large, multi-national corporations continue to fleece the American people of their ability to survive while systematically killing off the entire middle-class of the United States. Do you imagine any of those corporations own media companies that might somehow be being used for human trafficking?

Picking Craig Newmark out of the pack to ambush on this subject is akin to making a name for yourself on the playground by walking up and punching out the kid in the wheelchair. Should you continue working another fifty years in this industry I seriously doubt that you will come close to helping a fraction of the number of people that Mr. Newmark is responsible for helping.

All that being said, obviously human trafficking of any sort, no matter what vehicle is used to carry it out, is intolerable and of course, we as a society should do everything we can to stop it. In response to your initial ambush of Mr. Newmark, Jim Buckmaster, president and CEO of Craigslist responded immediately with a letter to CNN.

Nevertheless, any misuse of our site whatsoever in facilitating such unspeakable crimes is unacceptable, and we will continue to work tirelessly, in tandem with law enforcement and key nonprofits, to ensure that any victims receive the assistance they desperately need and deserve, and that those responsible are imprisoned.

We believe Craigslist is one of the few bright spots and success stories in the fight against these terrible scourges. We’ve been told as much by experts on the front lines of this fight, many of whom we have met with, and many of whom have shared helpful suggestions that we have incorporated in our approach. Even politicians looking to advance their careers at the expense of Craigslist’s good name grudgingly admit, when pressed, that we have made huge strides, and that Craigslist is virtually alone among advertising venues in vigorously combating these problems.

Does that sound like a company that needs to be ambushed on the subject of human trafficking? Does it seem as if they’re not willing to come to the table to discuss it? Are you in fact even aware of what, if anything, they may already be doing to address this issue?

My problem isn’t that you brought the subject up Ms. Lyons, it’s how you brought it up. It seemed less selfless and more self-serving. It wreaks of shock journalism and your actions demean the cause you are trying to help. You should be ashamed of yourself Ms. Lyons.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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