Plenty of people have used Craigslist to hunt down and entrust perfectly amicable roommates (check), to sell cars that were worth less than the work they needed (check), to buy $2 seats to Mets games (check, Shea days), and to trade a bunch of other things I'm not going to dive any deeper into. But it will always be impossible to forget that other people have used the same site to hunt down and kill people, to recruit rapists, and to just sell some drugs on the side of having a regular life in the Big Apple.
Huffington Post reported that an NYU grad student, "a financial adviser," and "a 62-year-old woman who works as a freelance photographer," were among the 21 people arrested in New York last week for criminal drug sales. "No LE please," one of their posts read, meaning "Law Enforcement." Yeah, uh huh.
The Craigslist pill profiteers might have found a less traceable, more sustainable way of trafficking their drugs. Had it been for deploying smarter tactics (like learning a thing or two about the dark web), the drug dealers could've conducted a business with some actual longevity, made a real career of it. I know, I know, using a tor client, handling a bitcoin wallet, finding a hyper-anonymous person you can trust with digital money, using fake addresses, etc — all of that seems to adjure a day's long journey into tedium. But, as demonstrated by Ryan Broderick's strange trip into the drug markets of the Silkroad, all of these dudes and dudettes might have been better off using the crazy little untraceable crypto-currency called bitcoin.
While I'm sure for most freelance creatives, grad students, and financial advisers, a little bit of harmless pill-pushing near the Krispy Kreme in Penn Station is a temporary gig (a get-rich-quick pyramid that lasts as long as a doc writes the refill scripts.) But how long will Craigslist allow such blatantly obvious ads signed "perc roxy :)" by "friendly NYU student" to evade flagging? While the site has certainly done its fair share in policing prostitution, there is usually a code-word or a loophole that posters will find. And while sex trumps drug trafficking in most scopes of American moralistic concern, both are essential to creating additional crime. So is Craigslist really doing everything it can?
Special Narcotics Prosecutor
When I asked the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's office of New York City if Craigslist's hosting of these ads is a necessary means to benefit sting operations, a spokesperson told me that the office is currently in the process of reaching out to Craigslist. The department would like to see an effort to improve flagging and shutting down of drug-pusher posts, and perpetuating drug-trafficking for the sake of conducting stings is not in their interest.
Google's drug words
Other sites and e-mail providers are anything but unfamiliar to the prevalence of the bootleg and illegitimate drug trade. While it is generally thought that out-in-the-open drug sales have passed their heyday on the Internet (Viagra spam), Google has definitely moved forward and enacted policies and filtering mechanisms that weed out illegitimate sales ops. But don't we still have yet to see where a chorus of encrypted voices takes us as we move deeper and deeper into a web that's never been indexed?