April 29, 2010; Source: New York Times | As a private company, it’s not surprising that the classified advertising website, Craigslist, is a bit tight-lipped. But you’d think it would be a bit more forthcoming about its charitable arm, the Craigslist Charitable Fund.
Unfortunately as one New York Times reporter has discovered, the company says little about its giving, and when it does speak—at least so far—most of the exchanges are conducted over email or posted on the Craigslist blog. It seems that some of its low profile concerning its charitable giving has to do with the fact that it makes a lot of money from sex ads, and that bothers groups that feel the advertisements help support human trafficking.
Craigslist only began charging for what were then called “erotic services” ads in 2008, bowing to pressure from 40 state attorneys general. At the time, it also agreed to “contribute 100% of net revenues for the ‘erotic services’ category to charity.” About a year ago, however, the classified ad company said it was disbanding that category, starting a new one for “adult services,” and for which it would charge higher fees. Craigslist also said it would no longer commit to donating all its sex-related revenues to charity but “will continue to develop its charitable initiatives.”
When the New York Times‘ Brad Stone recently asked Craigslist for some specifics about its charity, it said via email from a spokesperson that it is a “grant making foundation established and funded by Craigslist.” In a followup question, which Craigslist hadn’t respond to late last week, Stone asked whether the charity is funded with sex ads revenue, and whether the fund has given any money away.
Curious whether Craigslist’s charity might help “alleviate the concerns of organizations that work against human trafficking,” Stone also contacted Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which helps sexually exploited and trafficked women. Lloyd was unequivocal in her response: “As a nonprofit service provider who is continually in dire need of funding—and please quote me on that—I would not accept money from Craigslist. That money has come from pimps and traffickers who have sold many of the girls who will then walk into my door.” The New York Times promises future updates, and we’ll keep on the lookout too.—Bruce Trachtenberg