Recently, we have heard about some unsavory news stemming from the ‘connections’ people are making on the popular site Craigslist.org. The most visible has been the case of Philip Markoff, a medical student attending Boston University who has been accused of killing a masseuse when she showed up to render her advertised services. Markoff has also been charged in the assault and robbery of a woman in a different incident that occured in Rhode Island, as well as robbing another just days before the murder. (source: Metro.us click here)
In Newsday on May 9th, I read about a woman named Margary Tannenbaum from Hauppauge, NY who was arrested and charged with aggravated harrassment for her attempt to exact revenge on her 9 year old neighbor. In this case, the neighbor was in a conflict with Tannenbaum’s daughter (also 9). It’s unclear what this conflict was, but this mother somehow convinced herself that it was appropriate to place an ad on Craigslist that advertised, “Looking for a good time? w4m 21”. For the uninitiated, that’s shorthand for women for men – 21 years old. When men responded to the email address contained in the ad, they were directed to call the 9 year old victim’s house. The ad supposedly netted 22 calls. Tannenbaum has been released on bail and will be arraigned this summer.
In March of this year, news radio reporter George Weber was killed in Brooklyn by John Katehis, a 16 year old he solicited on Craigslist, supposedly for rough sex.
In 2007, a Minnesota man was sentenced to life in prision when he was found guilty of murdering Katherine Ann Olson who responded to his ad on Craigslist for a babysitter.
I went on Craigslist this morning (as I’ve done countless times before) and, in the interest of full disclosure, I have used the service in the past. I’ve sold a car and done some hiring – all with great success. This morning I went in search of something entirely different…..I wanted to take a closer look at their “About Us”. This led me to their FAQ page (click here) which, to my surprise – contains a purple peace sign within their tab container.
This strikes me as ironic, given the recent press and the call to action by several states and their Attorney Generals. The following quote first appeared in an article in the LA Times Business section just today….”This is the world’s oldest profession using the world’s newest technology,” South Carolina Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster said in an interview. Last week, he warned Craigslist that it would be “subject to criminal investigation and prosecution” if the erotic services section wasn’t removed by May 15.
There is a recurring theme here and the words of every parent, grandparent and caretaker are ringing in my head. “Don’t take candy from/talk to strangers”….remember that one? Given the world we live in today and the fact that we make many legitimate online connections that result in mutually-beneficial, sometimes profitable relationships, provides a counter-point to the “Don’t take candy” admonishment. Common sense must rule here….don’t put yourself into a potentially dangerous situation from which you cannot escape.
What do you think? Is it the responsibility of Craigslist to protect it’s visitors and screen it’s advertisers? I think this is a tricky question. It could be the buyer or the seller who becomes dangerous. How can anyone predict who will be the victim? Please share your thoughts.
Just so you don’t think I am picking on Craigslist…I am posting a story I just read a moment ago on a terrible story out of England. Click here to read about a couple whose online life resulted in real life tragedy.
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