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Sheriff scolds Craigslist for its part in man-seeking-animal sex

Over the years, Craigslist has taken many hits for not being more vigilant in monitoring the kinds of ads that lead to criminal activity, especially after some high profile deaths and other crimes linked to it. Now, "America's toughest sheriff" has sent a letter to the Craigslist CEO to "strongly encourage" the site to take more responsibility for its part in facilitating a love that dare not speak its name: bestiality.

Maricopa County (Arizona) Sherriff Joe Arpaio — who has come under fire for accusations of brutality, probably enhanced by a reputation for housing inmates in canvas tents outside in the Arizona heat and serving them green bologna — is now taking on the online classifieds for providing "the forum for these individuals to post, in a very blatant manner, their intentions," in a letter he wrote Jim Buckmaster this week.

While not being so blatant as to post, "Man seeks animal for sex," the alleged conspirators (an elementary school teacher and a handyman) that Arpaio busted and arrested made it clear that they had their own literal spin on the phrase, "making the beast with two backs." In fact, he wrote in that letter that the content of their posts included "specific description of criminal acts" with dogs and "graphic photographs" that included "a fully nude male in various pornographic situations."

The undercover investigation, which spanned several months in 2010 and 2011, used Craigslist as a way to identify and communicate with the alleged perpetrators, who posted in the "men seeking men" and "casual encounters" sections. Arpaio — who was a pivotal driver of the 2006 law that made bestiality a felony in Arizona after an attempted sheep rape by a deputy fire chief — admonished Buckmaster in the letter.

It is clear that the self-policing protocol Craigslist relies upon to prevent this activity is inadequate. While Craigslist may not committing a criminal act, you are undoubtedly providing a mechanism to facilitate obvious criminal activity. Simply posting your "Terms of Use", providing a mechanism for posters to do YOUR job, and claiming that Craigslist is "not responsible for the content" is thoroughly disappointing.

It's not the first time, and probably won't be the last time, that Craigslist is the target of law enforcement, politicians and others who feel like it hasn't done enough to control the illegal exchanges that occur from and through the site. 

In December, under pressure from a coalition of state attorney generals, Craigslist removed its adult services section. These lawmakers were able to push Craigslist in 2008 to require users who posted in that section to provide a working phone number and to pay a $10 fee. Then in 2009, the site instituted screenings to vet adult services posts for illegal content. Buckmaster said more than 700,000 ads were rejected by attorneys in that first year of manual screening "for falling short of our guidelines. Our uniquely intensive manual screening process has resulted in a mass exodus of those unwilling to abide by craigslist’s standards, manually enforced on an ad-by-ad basis."

That may not be enough for dogged crusaders like Arpaio, whose press release after these recent arrests includes this warning: "I would hope that Mr. Buckmaster takes my advice seriously and looks into our concerns. I think it is sad that people would utilize technology to take advantage of animals like this."

At the time of that 2006 lamb incident, Arpaio told The Arizona Republic, "I think it's disgusting ... I think of Gandhi who said you judge the morality of a country by the way they treat their animals. . . . I do look at (bestiality) as some type of animal cruelty."

It's certainly a subject that seems to stir a lot of interest, even if it is a taboo. A few years ago, one of the biggest stories in Washington was the case of the man who died in 2005 after having sex with a horse, revealing an underground animal sex culture.

(via Ars Technica)

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Check out Technolog on Facebook, and on Twitter, follow Athima Chansanchai, whose first job at the Village Voice included fact-checking web sites, such as a few that focused on bestiality. There's not enough brain bleach to undo what she saw.