They offer anonymous users to post and respond to ads and, one gathers from the huge number of ads looking for the widest range of partners, pairings and “activities” imagineable, are quite popular. It also seemed like, up until last week, quite a safe and discreet way for people to pursue their sexual fantasies, affairs and casual encounters.
What changed? Last week, Jason Fortuny started an “experiment” of posting ads as bait then republishing the responses he gets, along with email addresses, contact telephone numbers and photos. A number of the people who emailed him in response to his ads are married or in relationships and most of the others I’d suspect don’t really want their friends, families, and colleagues knowing they were posting or replying to sex wanted ads.
And there’s the rub – most of the people that Jason has exposed for whatever reason it is he did this (looking at his LiveJournal site, I reckon it’s simply to get some attention) are likely to be completely innocent of any legal or, so long as you’re fairly liberal and open minded about the idea that people can and do have casual sexual encounters, moral wrongdoing.
What Fortuny has done is attack the trust between users that is necessary for sites like craigslist to function as a community. It will be interesting to see how the casual encounters communities defend themselves against what they probably view as unfair attacks like this in future. [Meanwhile… Craigslist saw it’s traffic increase by 99% on last year.]
(There’s more on this story at waxy.org)