There is always a risk when meeting someone from Craigslist to buy something. Everyone on the internet doesn’t always have honest intentions. Craigslist should be taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their users, but they’re not. Although the encounters made through Craigslist are usually well-intentioned, sometimes things go wrong in the process.
Bud and June Runion disappeared after taking a 180 mile road trip from Marietta, Georgia to McRay, Georgia to meet Ronnie “Jay” Towns from Craigslist. He claimed to be selling a 1966 Ford Mustang, the couple’s dream car since they were married decades ago, according to ABC News. The couple was deemed missing when they didn’t show up to babysit their granddaughter that evening. Towns was originally charged with giving false statements and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. Authorities say that Towns never owned any such car, and that Town’s intention was to rob the couple from the start, according to CBS News. After the bodies were found on Jan. 27, he was charged with murder and robbery.
This is not the first or last time someone has been murdered after meeting with a stranger on Craigslist. Since the arrest of the “Craigslist Killer” Philip Markoff in 2009, there have been 58 murderers and 45 murder victims up to June 2014, according to Law Street. This may be because Craigslist is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, according to CBS News.The act states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This means that Craigslist isn’t responsible for anything that someone else posts on their website, so they have no reason to care.
All Craigslist has along the lines of personal safety for its users is a link to a few tips of how to stay safe: “Insist on meeting at a public place. Don’t meet in a secluded place or invite strangers to your home. Be especially careful when buying/selling high value items. Tell a friend or family member where you’re going. Take a cell phone along if you have one. Consider having a friend accompany you. Trust your instincts.” But these tips are all common-sense, and obviously after the number of murders reported, solely relying on common sense isn’t enough.
Police are trying to push for people meeting on Craigslist to meet at a police station, according to CBS news. That way if anything goes wrong, the police are there to help. Peter Zollman, a classified ad consultant, referred to Craigslist as a “cesspool of crime” and believes that carrying out transactions at a police station will prevent murders, muggings, and robberies, according to CBS News.
Websites like Angie’s List require an account to post on their services. Although Angie’s List is a subscription-only website, the idea of using a website to look for someone to do a job is similar to Craigslist. Taking the anonymity away from a website by forcing posters to make an account makes it safer to use. If users can see that people have given the poster good ratings, it’s a lot easier to tell which posters are safe to meet and do business with. A person doesn’t need an account to use Craigslist. Someone can post with nothing more than an email address. Users can respond to an ad through their own personal email or a phone call. Craigslist is no more than a spot for these people to post, so they don’t take responsibility for whether or not people are lying. However, Craigslist should create a system where all users have accounts and approval ratings in order to enhance safety, much like Angie’s List has.
Meeting people from the internet is risky business. If a married couple can get murdered in a small farm town, so can anyone else. There are steps that Craigslist can and should be taking to create a more safe environment, such as requiring an account and approval ratings, but they’re not. Because of this lack of safety precautions, it’s important to use common sense to be safe when conducting business with anyone from Craigslist.
Liv Reeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org