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McMaster declares victory; backs down in Craigslist case (Updated)

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But first, a step back

Craigslist first came under fire after the arrest of the so-called "Craigslist killer," who allegedly found his victims online. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called Craigslist a "blatant Internet brothel" the armchair pundits duly piled on.

Under serious duress, on May 13, Craigslist agreed to take down its "erotic services" vertical, a move that was lauded by Blumenthal as proof that "[Craigslist] is heeding our clear call for conscience and common sense, sending a strong signal that Internet sites must police themselves to protect others.”

The bigger question

But there's a bigger problem at play here, say many critics, and it has to do with a misunderstanding of the way the Web works. As Jeff Jarvis wrote recently on his blog, Web communities do not need to be policed externally. Instead, they often police themselves, and more successfully than their print counterparts. "[This] episode," Jarvis argues, "only shows the gap between the law and the community." He continues:

Craigslist’s community police itself against the things that matter to it: fraud, spam, trolls. That’s how craigslist’s founder, Craig Newmark, spends his days, in customer service: policing against the things that bother and matter to his community. But sex? Who gives a damn? Clearly, the community doesn’t think it needs to be protected from that. So who are these cops protecting and from what?
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