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Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Craigslist Gives Its Red Light District the Times Square Treatment

times-squareMany moons ago, in the good old/bad old days, New York’s Times Square used to be known as a den of iniquity. That started changing in the mid-1990s when city officials managed to move most of the strip clubs, porn shops, etc., out of the neighborhood and into ones where people wouldn’t complain as much.

Looks like Craigslist is trying to do the same thing. The online classified ad service is shutting down its “Erotic Services” section under pressure from state and local officials from around the country. In its place, Craigslist will open an “adult” category. It promises to keep said area cleaner by having employees sweep it periodically for ads that are obviously soliciting prostitution, etc. AP:

“We’re very encouraged that Craigslist is doing the right thing in eliminating its online red light district with prostitution and pornography in plain sight. We’ll be watching and investigating critically to make sure this measure is more than just a name change,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Good luck. As Gawker points out, this stuff is very likely to end up somewhere else on Craigslist because that’s the nature of the beast.

But still, not a bad idea. Internet + sex is always an attractive target for crusading lawmakers with an eye for a good headline (see MySpace, “sexting,” etc.). Craigslist is a higher-profile target than ever these days as it shares boogeyman status with Google (GOOG) for people looking to blame the death of newspapers on… something.

And the “move it somewhere else” strategy can work. Spread the bad stuff around–or at least into lower-profile places–and it seems less upsetting. As a reminder, here’s a semifictionalized version of what Times Square used to look like circa mid-1970s, via “Taxi Driver”:

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik