This is my tale of how CL’s hands-off approach to “community-moderated dating/hookup content” went so horribly wrong. And how I’ve seen the same thing happen on other sites, but never quite so definitively as at craigslist.
I’d like to make clear that this post is going to be about specific experiences with men on craigslist and other sites. For the record, I am NOT knocking all men. Just the men who behave like the ones I’m going to write about—the ones who ruin things for everyone.
AND, this post is a bit long. Sorry for that. smiles
So, for those of you who never had the wild ride of posting on craigslist as a woman, especially in the “casual encounters” section, let me tell you a bit about it.
I would write up an ad, post it to my location (or whatever location I might be heading to), throw in a couple of images, and voila. I would soon be flooded with messages from hopefuls (usually men, since that’s usually what I was posting for, but not always).
And by flooded, I literally mean upwards of 80-100 messages an hour for the first few hours, then tapering off, so that in a full 24 hour period, I might get ~500 replies.
To a single post.
And sometimes (fairly often), I’d even get messages about how AMAZING my ads were. Some people wrote just because they wanted to let me know that, even though they didn’t fit my criteria. This is not about those men. Or even the men who read the ads and never replied because they didn’t match what I was looking for, or didn’t want what I was offering. This is also not about the men who did match what I was looking for and wrote and took the inevitable “no” gracefully.
I met some AMAZING people on craigslist, and had some mind-blowing encounters. YAY me!
This is obviously not about those men, either.
In the last two years of CL personals, it started to go horribly wrong for me in ways that were incredibly frustrating to watch.
You see, craigslist didn’t moderate their content. Which in some ways was GOOD. People were free to post what they wanted, the community moderated, and their algorithms made the final call. Since the “community” was made up of people who wanted casual encounters, for years it was a VERY lax moderation, and things were good.
Then it seemed that some people began to understand the system in place, and started to weaponize it.
I remember the first time I was notified that one of my posts had been reported.
It was not by craigslist—they didn’t let you know until they had “enough” reports by the community to take your post down. It was by the person who reported me:
Someone I had just politely declined.
The second time I was reported, on another post a few weeks later, it was the same person. And then, quickly following that, on the same post, was another man stung by my “Thank you, but I’m not actually looking for a date with this post,” reply. He reported me, to “teach you stuck up c*nts a lesson.”
Not sure if he thought I was more than one stuck up c*nt, or if he thought he was teaching other women a lesson by reporting my post.
Well, in the long-run, I guess he was.
Because he and the other men who reported me as soon as they saw my messages were teaching the algorithm that I (and other women who posted like I did) were fake.
Not long after that, I started getting messages from men who gleefully told me that they were messaging me before they reported me, to cut down on their competition, and because I wouldn’t need anyone else after reading their replies anyway…
Yeah. The first time I had a hard time believing it. Then, it started happening with regularity, and I realized that these men had somehow communicated this tactic to each other, and thought it was a great idea…
TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF POSTS FROM REAL WOMEN ON CRAIGSLIST.
Because they weren’t reducing the number of posts from men. That number stayed steady. They were reporting women.
For being fake.
Because they wanted a better shot, or because they were butt-hurt, or (get this) because they didn’t understand women’s clothing sizes.
Yeah. That happened. 🙄
At the same time that this was going down, I was a moderator and worked behind the scenes at a kinky connections site that also started with a “C,” that had seen better days, and had had some major drama. In that site, when people reported other people, I and my team could go in to look over the full conversation to help make our professional call on what happened and who was in the wrong.
About 19 out of 20 reports were from men on that site.
And 18 of those 19 reports were usually lies. Sure, there were bait-and-switch pros on that site (my team was NOT allowed to delete them—they added to the “numbers,” which was all that mattered for the owner), but nearly all of the reports from men were a result of being turned down.
To them, that automatically made the women “fake,” and therefore subject to reporting and retaliation.
And men would report those women in REALLY inventive ways, not knowing that we could see the full conversation and interaction.
Like create entire conversations, or messages that never happened.
Or say the woman asked for money, when they had simply said “No, thank you.”
Or say they were being harassed, when they were the ones who had sent 20 messages in less than an hour, getting increasingly irate at not being given whatever they wanted (often cybersex or “a chance”).
Interestingly, women almost never reported the harassment they received. They just blocked the guy and moved on. But when they did, it was usually egregious (like they’d blocked the guy, and he’d come back in another account three or four times) and they desperately wanted help so they could continue to use/enjoy the site.
At least at that site, we HAD a moderation team who could check the “facts” of a case.
Craigslist had nothing. They believed that if enough people reported a post, it obviously deserved to be reported, and the “community” had spoken.
More, they believed that if an account got posts removed, that should count against future posts, so fewer reports would be needed to get each subsequent personals ad taken down.
It got to the point that my account could get sniped in the first 30 minutes with one report from one of my CL “stalkers.” And there was nothing craigslist would do. They would not have a person look things over, reinstate an ad, or even respond to questions.
Some have suggested that I was also being reported by other women—women who maybe were using CL for profit, who didn’t want competition from women who just wanted to connect for great sex.
Based on numbers from other sites that I’ve modded at, though, I doubt it. Women rarely report others of any gender. We tend to just take the abuse and move on.
But it’s possible.
And at the same time all of this was happening, I would talk with people from all over, and men who had been using CL for years would say that the quality and availability of women in the personals had gone in steep decline recently, and that it was a huge sausage fest now…
If any of the other “real” women like me were experiencing what I was (I have no doubt that they were, based on my experiences modding other sites), they were eventually giving up, and looking for other places to post.
Possibly like me on paid sites, because those, at least, potentially had a mod team, and appeals, and the people in those sites were maybe a bit more invested in the connections (with their money on the line). Maybe.
But the balance was a bit better, perhaps.
Even in the paid sites I’ve worked at, men out-report women by at least five-to-one. And for similar reasons as on CL. But they more often have good reasons (especially as those sites have been inundated with fakes and pros even more). And women do report more often, feeling like they have more of a right to NOT put up with the written abuse when they’ve paid something.
And before you ask, anyone who does not identify as either a woman or man makes up less than 1% (in my experiences) of reporting, and when they do, it’s usually for REALLY GOOD REASONS.
I write a lot about online dating and connections, because I’ve been in that world in various ways for so many years, and because I have my own pet project, Dating Kinky, of course.
And I’m writing this not to knock MEN. It’s not MEN. It’s a few individual men who learned how to game a system, to try to gain advantage or revenge.
And yet, just like the imbalance in who sends the first message in online dating, or the percentages of various genders on a dating site, those few find a way to ruin things for everyone.
My proposed changes for (some) men:
- Don’t report people because they turn you down. (Fat chance of that stopping, but hey, I try.)
- Don’t report people without an actual valid reason.
My proposed changes for (most) non-men:
Report people MORE often for being jerks and dickwads. Even if you think it may not make a difference, or “It’s not as bad as some…” Report them anyway. Let the mods decide. Or the algorithm. Even the playing field.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that some sites DO CARE (DK does), and will remove those people or restrict them, or give them a verbal warning, and whatever, so you and others can continue seeking without the harassment and assholerly.
What are YOUR thoughts?
What have been your experiences? Did you get to partake in the craigslist personals section, ever?
Or have you had similar interesting/frustrating experiences on other dating/connecting sites (especially for kink and/or sex)?