State AGs Prevail; Craigslist 'Censors' Adult Services

SAN FRANCISCO—Not a month after 17 state attorneys general sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster asking that the site's adult services section be removed on allegations of illegal prostitution and sex trafficking taking place within its presumably monitored confines, the company has relented; the section has been closed, replaced with a jet black bar with the word "censored" in stark white lettering,

If there is any question about how Buckmaster and founder Craig Newmark feel about having to do away with a section that exactly two years ago this Labor Day was the centerpiece of a joint announcement by Craigslist, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and 43 state attorneys general on agreed measures to prevent illegal activity and improve safety, that symbolically bitter gesture with the section name will have to do. There has been no other direct comment on the closure from either man in the media or on their respective blogs.

But while neither man is yet inclined to pick a public fight with the AGs, they have no such reticence in recent blog posts about the way the story has been managed by the media, to say the least.

On Aug. 28, Newmark added a post to his blog titled "Amber's 'Ambush' - the Point Was What?" regarding an unscheduled attempt by CNN reporter Amber Lyon to interview him at a Washington, D.C. conference May 20. The segment on the adult services section— which has aired several times on CNN over the summer, and was even re-aired today—includes the awkward video showing Lyon introducing herself to Newmark during a break in the conference, and peppering him with questions about the adult services section and alleged instances of trafficking. Newmark, who is clearly caught off guard and unwilling (or unable) to engage, eventually turns away and walks back into the conference area.

"[Amber] said because 'I'm the Craig in craigslist,' she expected me to have all the answers on the spot about anything to do with the company. Well, I don't. Jim Buckmaster, our CEO, has been running craigslist for the last 10 years. I am a customer service rep, and I still love being connected to our users and trying to help people," Newmark wrote on his blog. "If Amber had done her homework, she would have known ambushing me with questions I am not qualified to answer, or even the right person to ask, would not get CNN's viewers the accurate information they deserve."

He added, "I know our folks have worked very hard to identify and do the right thing with legitimate versus illegitimate adult service ads. From what I can tell that's a lot more difficult to do perfectly than is being portrayed by CNN and other media."

Objecting to being depicted by CNN and others as a profiteer "oblivious to the welfare of women and children," he said that in the future he would try to be "a little more perceptive about the true intent of reporters I talk to."

Buckmaster's post two days later—"For Amber Lyon, CNN"—on the occasion of an official interview request by Lynn and CNN, was far less restrained.

"There is a class of  'journalists' known for gratuitously trashing respected organizations and individuals, ignoring readily available facts in favor of rank sensationalism and self-promotion," he wrote. "They work for tabloid media. Your stunt has veteran news pros we know recoiling in journalistic horror, some of them chalking it up to a decline in CNN’s standards, which is unfortunate. Seeing how you’ve pinned your career hopes on butchering this story, I’ll have to pass. If Anderson Cooper would like to come out to SF and sit with us for an interview worthy of CNN’s viewers, we’ll consider it."

Not the warmest of invitations, but one Cooper might find hard to resist. The story opened Saturday's newscast of the CBS Evening News.