Oh, Sure, Like Anyone's Going to Boycott Craigslist

Troubled by reports that accused murderer Philip Markoff found his alleged prey through Craigslist, a do-gooder has called for a boycott of the classifieds site. 61 out of a hoped-for 500,000 have signed up.

The petitioners are echoing media pressure in calling for Craigslist to shut down its Erotic Services section, thereby preventing the likes of Markoff from contacting 25-year-old "masseuses" through the site. Craigslist does charge for erotic listings, but donates the revenues from the category; Casual Encounters is free. The only way the site makes money is from job and apartment listings; Craigslist doesn't make a dime when you unload your old couch on the site. Frankly, Craig Newmark would make more money and have fewer headaches if everyone not looking for a job or a place to live went elsewhere.

And of course, if Craigslist banned Erotic Services, that's exactly what its clientele would do — buy and sell the same services elsewhere online. That's a far easier route to take, and would save Craigslist a lot of headaches complying with vice-squad subpoenas — which is why most websites ban the sex trade altogether.

"Craigslist is the largest source of prostitution in America," Cook County sheriff Tom Dart told ABC News. Nonsense. Horny, desperate men are the largest source of prostitution in America. And Dart should be happy that they're visiting a website which rolls over so easily when the police call.

What no one is saying: Laws banning prostitution, which makes women engaged in trading sex for money vulnerable to predators, are the real problem. Western Europe's boring brothels suggest that legalizing prostitution is a danger to sexual excitement but not public mores. Sure, boycott Craigslist! It's an easy move to stop spending money with a site that costs nothing — one that changes exactly nothing about the dynamic that got Julissa Brisman killed. Meanwhile, Newmark, the lazy millionaire, will keep doing his humble-nerd act all the way to the bank.