New Orleans Craigslist is an interesting story. A guy — Craig — in San Francisco develops this free thing there and then in a couple of other cities and now in mess of places where people can post up information for jobs, apartments, trades, and just about anything. It’s free. There’s no length. It’s unedited. It’s a great, innovative service.
My daughter tipped me off about craigslist about a year or so ago. We ran ads for the Wal-Mart organizing campaign on craigslist in Tampa-St. Pete and in D/FW with a high level of confidence that this was a pretty secure way to do so without tipping our hand. When we were desperate for housing after the storm we stalked the site for housing. I rented an apartment to folks working in New Orleans on hurricane relief and only ran the ad on craigslist. I’ve told people about it. I’m a fan.
So, I was disappointed to see that craigslist was sued by the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968. I wasn’t exactly disappointed that they were sued — it actually looks like they deserved to be sued, but I was more disappointed that their spokesperson and CEO, Jim Buckmaster, who Craig hired to come in and keep the list independent, came off as such a sniveling, spinning corporate jerk on an issue so fundamental.
Seems the issue was straightforward. Some of the unedited ads say that they don’t want to live with Arabs or African-Americans. No-no! Can not say that!!!!
Daughter also told me this morning that craigslist is also relentlessly homophobic as well. Is that hip? I don’t think so?
Buckmaster gave a lead-footed response saying that craigslist posts 2-million ads for housing per month — more than all US newspapers combined — and despite the fact that it is pulverizing the revenue base and business model of newspapers, wanted to claim that they are not a newspaper, so it’s all cool. Hey, Mr. Buckpasser, did you forget that in fact here in this country it’s in fact not cool to discriminate for any reason. Then Mr. Buckpasser in a classic corporate move for something that is supposed to be lean and mean, said that they are self-policed by their readers. Somehow the readers are supposed to keep them from being used as a tool — of whatever type and description — to discriminate.
Buckpasser, call google. Get them to tell you how to send you an alert every time they see the word African-American or something similar on your site, and then get one of your 19 folks to pull that baby off and straighten them out. Hey, pay, google a couple of dimes to get it done. Or figure it out yourself, smarty-pants! Ask Craig for goodness sakes, but fix this baby!
February 25, 2006