The Craigslist Crime Report: "Cesspool of Crime," Bold Use of Marketing [Updated]

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Has popular online classifieds site Craigslist become a cesspool of crime? A destination for mayhem? A hub of murders, rapes, robberies, hit-man-for-hire, assault, and fraud?

Yes, begins a hyperbolic new report commissioned by Craigslist-competitor Oodle.com. The study, released today, attempts to paint Craigslist as the online equivalent of Mos Eisley Cantina, a place where you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

And like one of those guns-for-hire Oodle says are all over Craigslist, this report is nothing more than a commissioned hit-job on Oodle's competitor. The report tirelessly lists all the crimes associated with Craigslist over the past year, dividing nefarious activity into five categories: killings, robberies, assaults, fraud, and prostitution. It's no wonder the consultancy behind the report, the Aim Group, was able to find so much material: According to its methodology, "Google and Yahoo" were its primary research tools.

All in all, the report, which is hilariously titled "Crime and Craigslist: A Sad Tale of Murders and More," discovered 330 crimes related to Craigslist in the past year--a figure researchers called "staggering."

A spokesperson for Craigslist appropriately took a different perspective. "[It's] probably worth considering we had over 573 million postings on Craigslist last year in North America," the spokesperson said. "What are the odds?"

The odds, you ask? On average, around 0.00005% of posts are associated with crimes on Craigslist--not that you would get that impression from Oodle's report, which is filled with innuendo and exaggerated implications. So the report acknowledges that Craigslist has no control over its users--right before launching into a 50-page listing of rapes, murders, and assaults occurring because of Craigslist. Its wink-wink research, intended to foster an atmosphere of doom and gloom around the service. "It's important to emphasize that Craigslist has no control over the actions of its users," the report reads. "Even so, the number, volume and scope of the incidents speak for themselves."

The Aim Group also acknowledges that "thousands or even tens of thousands of transactions happen safely"--well, try hundreds of millions--and says that "Craigslist as an entity can’t be blamed for the things that happen among its users."

"But that's no longer an excuse that Craigslist can hide behind," continues the report.

"The unfortunate fact is that Craigslist has become almost synonymous with crime."

Dun, dun, duuuun.

Update: Craigslist has taken to its blog to burn "CL wannabe Oodle" and the "false (and defamatory) paid-ford editorial" of the Aim Group.

Classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity...

James Temple at the SF Chronicle is reporting that, in terms of crime rate, or incidence of crime, craigslist is roughly 11,000 times safer than the city of Oakland...

Since few have heard of it, its worth mentioning that Oodle is a classified ad scraper or aggregator, meaning it acquires its listings by  scraping them or aggregating them from other sites. In fact we had to send them a cease-and-desist notice when they started scraping listings from craigslist years ago...

But of course, you don’t include such findings when your “research” is being bought and paid for by a client looking to tar an industry leader whose position it covets and envies.

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3 Comments

  • Melodie Moore

    I agree with the below poster.

    Craigslist didn't create crime it did create a place for it.

    It also created a place for people to connect and engage in conversation and trade. The good in craigslist fair outweighs the negative.

    Needless to say if someone says to send them your entire life savings, best not to reply.

  • Caleb Blanton

    This article seems to make the assumption that these crimes happen because of Craigslist. The unfortunate fact is that these crimes will happen with or without Craigslist - and while the online service may act as an enabler for the criminals, what this article completely fails to acknowledge is that the online service also acts as an enabler for law enforcement.

    Craigslist provides law enforcement with an audit trail that they wouldn't otherwise have for criminal activity. Accusing Craigslist of any wrongdoing here is like accusing the Blue Line in Chicago of "harboring known criminals" and "enabling criminal activity".

    This article is ridiculously one-sided and buys into the typical finger-pointing in today's media. Point the finger at those breaking the laws, not the services that help more than they harm.