A couple of months ago, I penned an open letter to my competitors in the online classifieds business, asking them to join me in taking some bold steps to make our sites safer. For some time now, I’ve been standing pretty much alone on my soapbox, promoting Geebo as a classifieds site that puts user safety first.
As much as I enjoy tooting Geebo’s horn whenever possible, this open letter challenge wasn’t meant to be a promotion of Geebo or otherwise present a holier-than-thou message. This was a way of reaching out responsibly to my counterparts in the industry, as if to say, “Let’s put aside our competitiveness and take the steps necessary to deter criminals from preying on innocent victims, via our sites.”
Not surprisingly, I didn’t receive one response from any of them – Craigslist, Oodle, Backpage and others. Not one of their executives so much acknowledged my letter. Certainly, I didn’t expect that all of the others would jump on board – but I also didn’t expect them all to ignore my pleas for increased user safety.
I can only guess why they were non-responsive. Maybe they don’t have the manpower to monitor ad submissions. Maybe they didn’t want to acknowledge a competitor for fear of losing customers. Maybe they don’t see the assaults, murders and rapes that stem from meetings on their sites as their problem. Maybe they just don’t care.
But how can they not?
Earlier this month, police in New York City reported two separate assaults on prostitutes who advertised their services online, one on Craigslist and one on Backpage.com. And in San Diego last week, a teenager trying to buy a $600 computer off of a craigslist ad was shot and killed by three other teens during the course of a robbery gone bad.
Robberies and assaults occur everyday and criminals looking for victims will do whatever it takes to find them. But do our sites have to make it easy for them? There’s no way a crime involving prostitutes would have originated on Geebo, which doesn’t accept personals or escorts ads. Likewise, Geebo’s partnership with WeGoLook is intended to prevent the types of tragedies that occurred in San Diego. By dispatching an inspector to verify the item for sale ahead of time, especially bigger ticket items where a buyer might be carrying cash, WeGoLook and Geebo can offer some assurances to potential buyers that the deal is legitimate.
I guess I could use this blog solely to toot Geebo’s horn and publicize things like our sponsorship of FAIR Fund’s annual Pearls of Purpose Gala, an organization committed to battling human trafficking of young girls. But that’s just self-serving and doesn’t advance the causes.
I can’t stop hoping that, even though the recipients of my open letter chose to be non-responsive to me, that they’ll take the words of that letter to heart, take note of the incidents that are originating on their sites and start making the changes that deter criminals from preying on their users.