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« Political Parlor Tricks: Fundraising Reporting Fun! | Main | Sup. Alioto-Pier's (sort of) Pyrrhic Victory Today »

Random Thoughts on Today's "Day of Protest" at Craigslist Worldwide HQ In the Inner Sunset...

smallversionoftwitpic.jpgEarlier today the Inner Sunset had something it normally does not: a loud angry protest gathered on the sidewalk, in this case in front of Craigslist Worldwide Headquarters on 9th Avenue. This is a drastic change from normal - usually the biggest thing we see are aggressive panhandlers activists raising money or gathering signatures on Irving and 9th. So I figured I'd use my lunch hour away from the home office to check it out.

Quite a bit of news media was represented from the major network affliates, and KPIX blogger Beth Spotswood was there, as was Jim of SF Citizen, Bay City News/SF Appeal, and a documentary film crew based in Hawaii.

Needless to say it was a bit of a circus, and the N Judah almost ran over a few people who were rubbernecking in their cars or who were spilling out of the sidewalk. I took some photos, which you can see here.

Here's a few random thoughts on today's events, in no particular order:

- Jim at SF Citizen (who posted his post in record time, I might note) raises the question - why aren't they protesting at the Bay Guardian or other print publications that also feature adult-oriented advertising. I asked this to one of the organizers, who basically said that Craigslist was a "multinational corporation" and the excuse that they couldn't "fight in more places than one at a time." I hear that - no one criticized Martin Luther KIng Jr. of only having the Bus Strike in one city and not more at the same time, but then again, this is the age of the Internet, and it's foolish for anyone to ignore the fact that if one eliminated craigslist.org's ads, they'd simply move to another site or back to print - but not be eliminated.

It is also foolish to ignore the fact that there are plenty of calls to attack craigslist coming from other entities that would eagerly take the cash for said ads. The fact that protesters had an online competitor of craigslist.org speaking there was a bit much. They might as well have invited eBay to jump in too. (Meg Whitman oversaw an expansion of eBay's adult sales so I guess she couldn't have shown up. That and the whole lawsuit thing.)

-I've met Craig Newmark and I think he means well. I've seen him take a lot of unneeded crap from people (Chronicle employee, you know who you are), and Craiglist did wonders for me personally when I needed to rent a place to live, or sell furniture online without it costing me a fortune. On the day I launched the N Judah Chronicles, he posted a cool post that helped generate initial interest, and the fact is if Craigslist wanted to, it could have been 100x as big as it is now and make literally billions, but chose another route.

That said, I think craigslist.org's handling of the bad publicity, and the legitimate public policy questions raised by many has been poor. Like almost every other tech-based business, there seems to be the sense that because it's not a traditional Industrial Age business, somehow it's immune from those that would wish it to be burnt to the ground (both in the print world and elsewhere). It's similar to the folks at Facebook.com and other tech companies that ignore those in power that have sway over little things like "antitrust laws," "privacy" and the like.

If I was in the kind of trouble these guys are in ("Craigslist Killer?" Really? WTF??) I'd hire a company like Barbary Coast Consulting or Dezenhall Resources to better defend the company - not paint over the craiglist.org sign.

-I dislike immensely the idea of human trafficking and I've read enough about how organized crime operates to know this is a problem. We have also had a serious problem with this in the Outer Sunset where cartel-run operations have busted for some time now. I don't like the idea that the Outer Sunset, because of its relative calmness and "remoteness" (Remote? In a city of 49 square miles? Really?) is being targeted by cartels for the prostitution business and the drug businesses. The fact that people are being hurt and killed in these situations is sickening too.

That said, we have had tough laws on the books for years, and that hasn't stopped anything - it just pushes things into the shadows, ironically giving organized crime even more power than it already has (drug war anyone?). California is likely to legalize marijuana this fall (!) and there have been suggestions that legalizing, regulating and taxing (and punishing like hell those that break said laws) it would have an effect on organized crime profits. (i.e. like the drug cartels growing marijuana out here).

Could something like this work and create a safer, regulated, less crime dominated situation for consenting adults? I'm nowhere near an expert on said matters, but outright bans, and big penalties for those who do this haven't eliminated the problem. Is there some other way? Regulating personal behavior can go too far - watch the opening credits of Milk for an example.

People of the Internet, you tell me.

That's all. I'm sure I've said plenty to irritate everyone on all sides of the issue. I'm happy to post constructive critques, but namecalling and insults will be deleted. Flame on.

PS: Debunking the Disinfo Here: This blogger claimed (or at least implied) that the Mercury Insurance sign at the location of Craiglist HQ was designed to "hide" Craigslist.

This is a mistake.

Craigslist.org has always only occupied the street level portion of this property. The upper stories have always been other businesses. There is in fact an actual Mercury Insurance agent at this location. Prior to that it was something else. Just sayin'!

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