Oodle study: 330 crimes related to Craigslist

Faith Merino · February 24, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1775

Facebook marketplace Oodle calls Craigslist a "cesspool of crime"

Correction: Typo--Craigslist gets 50 million postings each month, not 50,000.

Oodle, a marketplace for Facebook users (akin to a classifieds section), launched an interesting attack ad campaign Thursday. Who was the object of the attack? None other than Craigslist. The attack ad, which didn't hold back--calling Craigslist a "cesspool of crime"-- took the form of a study that charted 330 crimes related to Craigslist over the course of a 12-month period. 

Oodle commissioned the study, which was conducted by the AIM Group, a consultancy group for interactive media and online classifieds. The group analyzed nationwide crime reports covered by local media groups. The findings included 12 murders, 31 assaults, 74 robberies, 52 cases of prostitution, and 161 counts of an ominous "other" category. 

The dangers associated with meeting someone online have been thoroughly documented over the years, but online marketplaces like Craigslist present a new problem. The service is so commonplace and easy to use (not to mention free) that it's easier than ever for criminals to leverage online anonymity to lure in potential victims. Oodle CEO Craig (ironic) Donato said that the company commissioned the study because: "We recently conducted some focus groups on how people used online classifieds.   Problems relating to anonymity – specifically the bad behavior associated with it – really stood out.  Most complained of flaky behavior – missed meetings.  But almost everyone cited a close call where they felt scared. We wanted to understand how big of a problem this really was so we turned to the AIM Group."

But is 330 crimes that bad when you consider the fact that Craigslist users post 50 million classified ads each month? If my calculations are correct, that means that one in every roughly 1.8 million ads results in a crime. But then again, I suppose when you're that 1.8 millionth person, it's a different story...

The company cited specific examples reported in the news, including a recent string of robberies in Oakland, CA, which were traced back to a group of men who were luring in their victims with Craigslist ads of luxury cars for sale. Another account describes a home invasion in Washington that ended in a man's death after he posted a diamond ring for sale on Craigslist. 

Last fall, child advocate groups targeted Craigslist in a lobbying effort to get the site's "Adult Services" section removed after a slew of reports had emerged over the years of sex traffickers using Craigslist to advertise child prostitutes. The company fought to retain the "Adult Services" section, which was raking in huge sums in revenue, but ultimately the company gave up and removed the controversial section. 

Oodle claims to be a safer alternative to Craislist as it leverages the social graph to make exchanges more open and secure. Buyers and sellers who open a dialogue on Oodle's marketplace sign in using their Facebook profiles, which allows others to know who they're talking to, whether they have friends, etc. But then again, what's to stop someone from creating a fake Facebook profile for the purposes of exploiting other users' perception of openness and safety on the Oodle marketplace to lure in potential victims? 

"There's no sure fire way to prevent this but we do analyze the profiles and check them out for red flags (to see if they are associated with spammers, have friends, etc.)," said Donato via email. "Oodle also empowers people with information so they can check out who they are dealing with see who that person knows and if they have lots of friends that seem reasonable, etc."

Image source: businesswire.com

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