As it turned out, fate had other plans, and Blumenthal's ascension would have to wait. Meantime, the man took on various crusades with a zeal that ingratiated him to law-and-order types and progressives alike. He banned ATM fees, sued Microsoft and Big Tobacco, and orchestrated a national campaign against misleading sweepstakes mailings. His enthusiasm for courting the national spotlight brought the occasional criticism of attention-seeking—"The most dangerous place in Connecticut is between Dick Blumenthal and a TV camera," quipped Slate.com back in 2000—but he remained more or less a popular figure in his state. Currently, the tanned 63-year-old is laying the groundwork for a 2012 Senate run.

Rather than disregard the unassuming two-page letter on his desk that fall day, Blumenthal found a new cause at which to throw himself with characteristic vigor.

"Every brick-and-mortar establishment has a responsibility to protect the safety of its employees, patrons, and the general public," says Blumenthal. "And so, too, does an Internet site."

The first thing he did was fax Craigslist a short missive on Connecticut attorney general letterhead, appended with a copy of the mother's original complaint. "I am certainly concerned that children may have access to such explicit material," he wrote. "I would appreciate your review and response to the complaint, as well as any suggestions for improvement."

Twenty-four days after Blumenthal's first fax, an attorney for Craigslist replied with a four-page letter that effectively said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Lawyer Barry Reingold made clear that Craigslist was sympathetic with the woman's "desire to protect her children from personal advertisements that are intended for adult eyes only," but it was frankly out of their hands. He suggested that she install a Web content filter, which, he pointed out, is "freely available, easy to use, and effective."

The law-and-order East Coast prosecutor and the Left Coast live-and-let-sin entrepreneurs couldn't have been cut from more different cloths. Blumenthal was a sergeant in the Marine Corps; Newmark adopted a purple peace sign as the logo of his company. Blumenthal, a Brooklyn native, hails from a well-to-do family and holds degrees from both Harvard and Yale; Newmark, a Jersey boy, is more humble in stature as well as pedigree, having earned his computer science degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Over the course of the next several months, both factions bantered back and forth over conference calls, with Craigslist executives gradually growing more receptive to making some concessions. In early 2008, Newmark and Buckmaster agreed to amp up their enforcement of the site's terms of use and introduced a telephone verification requirement. As a result, the number of posts for erotic services in Hartford, Connecticut, dropped from about 400 per day to 50, according to Craigslist's Web metrics.

But when a Connecticut woman was arrested on March 19, 2008, for prostituting herself on Craigslist, Blumenthal jumped back on the case, livid that sex-worker ads were still polluting the site.

"I am astonished and appalled by Craigslist's refusal to recognize the reality of prostitution on its website—despite advertisements containing graphic photographs and hourly rates, and widespread reports of prostitutes using the site," he wrote the company. "Craigslist must determine now what type of site it is. If it's truly concerned about the issue, it must devote resources and technology to eliminate these postings from its site."

Frustrated by what he perceived to be stonewalling, Blumenthal went public. In March, he appeared in the daily New Haven Register to accuse Craigslist of profiting from prostitution and then laid into Buckmaster and Newmark, alleging they were dragging their feet in implementing the agreed-upon changes.

Baffled, Craigslist brass went on the defensive and fired back on the site's blog. "We were disappointed that he chose to ignore our recent progress in dramatically improving compliance with our terms of use, shocked at the bizarre assertion that we are 'stonewalling,' and frankly stunned to hear Craigslist recklessly slandered as 'profiting from prostitution,'" wrote Buckmaster. "Craigslist will not be used as a punching bag for false and defamatory statements."

In July 2008, the sides arranged their first face-to-face sit-down. Buckmaster, along with two Craigslist attorneys, made the cross-country trek to Rye, New York, just beyond the Connecticut border, halfway between Hartford and New York City. They met Blumenthal and a few of his subordinates in a coffee shop and, over the course of a few hours, hashed out an agreement.

Under the accord, Craigslist began asking advertisers to provide valid identification, in addition to charging Erotic Services advertisers a nominal credit card fee ($5 to $10) per ad, enabling the company to confirm users' identities and establish a digital fingerprint. Craigslist also vowed to donate all profits from the sex category to various charities, particularly those that address child exploitation and human trafficking.

The agreement, honed and refined throughout fall 2008, was made public in November. Forty attorneys general endorsed the deal, including those from Tennessee, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona (notable exceptions include Florida, Texas, California, Missouri, Minnesota, and New York).

Craigslist CEO Buckmaster says the company is doing its best to comply with the attorney general's concerns.

"There are far more—and far more graphic—images on all of the general-purpose internet portals and general-purpose search engines than anyone is ever going to find on Craigslist," says Buckmaster. "That said, we aren't comfortable with any pornographic images being posted on Craigslist, and we're committed to eliminating that."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
1 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Jane
Jane

What a great, thought-provoking article on Craigslist! And polarizing, to boot!

I have some things to say and forgive me for speaking disrespectfully about the dead. Let me preface this by saying that I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I believe that the folks at Craigslist are being blamed for things that aren't their fault. In our world today, people need to remember "Caveat Emptor." If you answer an ad on Craigslist for rough sex, you might get rough sex, and you might get killed.If you're a prostitute, oh whoops, I mean massage therapist, and you advertise your services on Craigslist, you might get killed.

And, if you answer an ad for a babysitter, you might get killed. (And this is where I feel badly for speaking disrespectfully about Katherine Olson...)

Are you freakin' kiddin' me??!! What kind of a mother would run an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter for their 5 year old??!! And then hire someone sight-unseen??!! NO DECENT MOTHER. And that should have been a red-flag for Katherine. She should have seen red-flags everywhere all over that ad!

"Hi, I don't know you, I've never met you, but please come to my home where I'm going to leave my 5 year old alone with a TOTAL AND COMPLETE stranger." Totally unrealistic scenario.

Wouldn't you want to meet such an awful parent first to see what the deal was? What kind of environment the home is? Every cop in the world tells you that you don't go to a total stranger's home! You meet in a Starbucks first, or something like that...you don't just answer an ad & show up at a person's home. If you do, you might get killed.

I have no problem with organized religion...but here is where it failed Katherine Olson...the daughter of a Pastor, God is good, and God will save you, and people are good, and rainbows and butterflies are beautiful, and always believe the best in people...BLAH, BLAH, BLAH...how about, not all people are good, some are pyschos, and God didn't save the Pastor's daughter from a brutal death, because she was silly enough to beleive that it's all good...but it's not.

People need to take responsibility for their own actions and stop putting the blame on everyone else.

Caveat emptor...let the buyer beware.

 
Loading...