Craigslist hosts classified ads of all kinds, including lengthy lists of developer's jobs in New York and the San Francisco Bay area. But another type of job listing was in the spotlight today, and it's nice to know there's at least one person out there who's thinking clearly.
A judge in Illinois yesterday threw out a case brought against Craigslist for facilitating prostitution, simply because people listed what were alleged to be such services on the company's no-frills Websites. That would be like blaming gun makers every time someone is shot to death, or suing makers of aluminum bats for the risk they pose to amateur pitchers. Oh wait, those are both happening.
But a cooler head prevailed in the Craigslist case, which was brought by Cook County Sheriff's office. John F. Grady, the U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, ruled in a 20-page judgement (pdf) that Craigslist can't be blamed. "Intermediaries are not culpable for 'aiding and abetting' their customers who misuse their services to commit unlawful acts," the judge wrote in his dismissal of the case. Citing the Communications Decency Act, an early Congressional attempt to regulate online porn, shields companies from liability because of the way people use their services.
Craigslist already had banned advertising of illegal services prior to the case. The service drew attention in April when Phillip Markoff, a Boston man dubbed the "Craigslist Killer," was apprehended following a series of robberies in which he allegedly selected his targets from people posting such services. One such woman was murdered. All such deaths are tragic, yes, but you can't blame the phone company for telemarketers.