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Craigslist challenges study from rival that says 330 crimes, 12 deaths were linked to its site

February 24, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Craigslist

study released Thursday said that interactions on Craigslist were linked to 330 U.S. crimes -- 105 robberies and 12 resulting in deaths -- over a 12-month period.

The study has left Craigslist crying foul, in large part because it was paid for by rival classified website Oodle.com, which is using the findings to steer consumers to its business.

But this isn't the first jab between Craigslist and Oodle.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's chief executive, wrote in a blog post that in 2005, his company issued a cease-and-desist letter when it found that Oodle was re-posting some of its listings.

AIM Group, a consulting firm for online classified companies (all of which are competitors of Craigslist), produced the study for Oodle and said in a blog post on its website Thursday that, "Sadly, Craigslist has become a cesspool of crime.

ReportPageOne "The AIM Group has just completed a research project for Oodle, a Craigslist competitor, cataloging crimes that have been linked to Craigslist. And the results surprised even us."

Buckmaster said that AIM Group, based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Oodle, based in San Mateo, Calif., should be ashamed of themselves producing the study.

"Classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity," Buckmaster said. "If you strip away the false (and defamatory) paid-for editorial however, and look at the numbers AIM uses, a very different story emerges."

The 330 crimes over a 12-month period that AIM said it documented as being linked to Craigslist with the help of police records are being portrayed in a dishonest light, he said.

"Sounds scary until you compare that number to the 570 million classified ads posted by 100 million or more US craigslist users during that same time span, generating literally BILLIONS of human interactions, many involving face-to-face meetings between users who do not know one another," Buckmaster said. "AIM Group facetiously writes 'we understand thousands or even tens of thousands of transactions happen safely between Craigslist aficionados.'

"THOUSANDS??? Shame on you AIM Group (and Oodle). You know better. Try HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS or BILLIONS of safe transactions."

AIM also said that it "counted 20 killings linked to Craigslist during the past three-and-a-half years – 12 of them during the past year" with four deaths being tied to "a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes who used Craigslist."

In a blog post on AIM's site about the study, Oodle CEO Craig Donato weighs in on the report his company commissioned.

Oodle "Online classifieds are a very social form of commerce," Donato said. "While the conversation starts online, it ends in a face-to-face interaction. Anonymous online conversations can lead to poor offline behavior."

Donato said Oodle is safer than Craigslist because it requires people who use the site to create a user account or use their Facebook profile to identify themselves, thus "introducing appropriate social norms back into the conversation," which "provides a safer and more social alternative."

In his blog post, Buckmaster pointed to a San Francisco Chronicle story that said Craigslist is about "11,000 times safer than Oakland" as proof that the AIM report is off base.

"Crime is exceedingly rare on craigslist in part because criminals know that the electronic trail they leave there helps ensure their capture, and CL is unusually helpful and cooperative with law enforcement," Buckmaster said. "The risk is not zero of course, and common sense precautions are in order when using craigslist, just as you would do at other venues or offline."

The Chronicle story, written by reporter James Temple, sparked some hurt feelings of its own -- among some Oakland residents.

Temple addressed the angry readers in an update to his story, writing that the point of his piece "was not that Oakland is overrun with crime; the point was that Craigslist isn't, when considered on a relative basis. The crime rate numbers would have come out heavily lopsided had the city been San Francisco or San Jose. I happened to pick Oakland, because I live in Oakland. And, for the record, I love living in Oakland."

RELATED:

Craigslist drops adult services listings from international sites

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: (Top) A screenshot of Craigslist.com and (bottom) a screenshot of Oodle.com.

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