Friday, June 21, 2013

Beware the Digital Wild West

    There’s a difference between classified advertising on a website like Craigslist and the classified ads run in most community newspapers, which may also publish ads on the web.
    Classified advertising in most community newspapers is reviewed by people paid to try to stop abuses before they occur and to try to screen scam-artists before they’re given an opportunity to strike.
    It’s not an easy job to ferret out scammers and those who wish to use ads to harm others because the people committed to such mayhem are often skilled in veiling themselves.
    Even so, it’s far less likely that a case like the one in Twin Falls in which a man last week pleaded guilty to soliciting the rape of a woman that he impersonated using Craigslist ads would be possible using classified advertising in most traditional community newspapers.
    No self-respecting community newspaper, including this one, runs X-rated ads, let alone ads that solicit a criminal act. Warning bells go off for newspaper advertising executives when they see such ads because they are charged with trying to prevent their publication and dissemination in print or on the web.
    Federal law treats websites and comment boards with user-supplied content like telephone lines. People who place content in these areas are legally responsible for the content—not the companies that operate the sites.
    Consequently, the Digital Wild West reigns supreme web-wide, and the trusting townsfolk traipsing those digital boardwalks may not be aware that bad guys sometimes lurk in the shadows. There’s no sheriff on Digital Main Street.
    The lesson here? It’s important that people recognize and utilize trustworthy sources when seeking information—sources like community newspapers like the Idaho Mountain Express.

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