S'pore Criagslist site offers sex for sale
BUY a car spare part on the cheap. Or a second-hand fridge. Or get somebody to landscape your garden. Or find a job.
In fact, you can buy and sell almost anything on the Singapore craigslist, including sex, it seems.
Go to the "erotic" section under the "services" column and one will find a list of personal advertisements offering sexual services.
Two girls in the US, one of whom claims to be only 17, alleged recently that they were forced into prostitution by pimps who advertised their services under the "adult" section in craigslist.
The girls later bought advertisements in the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle newspapers about their plight.
In Singapore, some concerned parents like Mr Tony Lim were stunned by what they discovered in craigslist.
And the Media Development Authority (MDA) is looking into the sex-for-sale advertisements.
Said Mr Lim, 39, a business development officer: "You will not suspect anything is amiss as craigslists has other legitimate services.
"But when I clicked on the 'erotic' section, I was shocked that it’s a hub for vice activities. It's like the United Nations of prostitution."
Another person familiar with online prostitution siteswas equally surprised.
Said the man, who gave his name only as Henry: "What's the difference between those members-only sex sites or special message groups andcraigs list? They all sell sex.
"But craigslist can be accessed by anybody without the need for a password."
Such offensive postings are what craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster is trying to avoid.
Responding to the two girls' claims, Mr Buckmaster wrote in his blog that if craigslist was misused, "we want to learn more so that we can improve our preventive measures".
He revealed that 50 million Americans use craigslist each month, but "criminal misuse of the site is quite rare".
Unlike the Singapore craigslist, the US craigslist does not have an "erotic" category under the services column.
IP Mirror, the administrative (local) contact for the domain name in Singapore, said it was not aware of such postings offering sex.
The site cannot be removed by IP Mirror as it is not the registrar of the site. Said IP Mirror CEO Janna Lam: "If we hear of such notification,we will inform the rightful Registrar, which in this case, is Mark Monitor Inc in the US.
"Alternatively, if SGNIC (Singapore Network Information Centre) is informed, it has the right to take the site down if it deems that it contains illicit content."
Before anybody can access the advertisements, a page is displayed to warn users about illegal activities like prostitution and exploitation of minors.
Most personals, with telephone numbers included, have photographs of sexily dressed womenor transsexuals.
Afew photosseemed pornographic in nature. Some women, both local and foreign, displayed their hourly rates and their ages ranged from 18 to 45.
This reporter contacted a few of them and learned that they operated independently.
What the women say
The women revealed on the telephone that they were willing to provide their services in hotels or in customers' homes.
Some calls were answered by men. They also provided details such as the type of services providedby thewomenandhowmuchthey charged. . Other posts were by social escort agencies and massage therapists.
In thew4m (women looking for men) sub-category, there were about 1,000 postings since July.
When contacted by The New Paper on Sunday, Mr Buckmaster said in an e-mail reply that craigslist has adopted "best practices" such as encouraging users to report trafficking, providing support for law enforcement anti-crime sweeps and manually reviewing every adult service advertisement submitted.
MrBuckmaster said: "Our interest is not limited to the United States.Wehave always taken matters of Singapore law very seriously."
Parents can install free software to prevent children from accessing portions of the website not intended for minors, saidMrBuckmaster.
Occasionally, pornographic images uploaded by Singapore craigslist users are removed during regular checks.
Mr Buckmaster said he does not believe that prostitution syndicates are operating in the Singapore craigslist.
He added: "To our knowledge, the ads are ads for legal services... We deplore misuse of our service and have a very good record of cooperating with law enforcement to bring anyone who misuses our service to justice."
But like any Internet Content Provider, craigslist is bound by the Media Development Authority's (MDA) Internet Code of Practice, which does not allow prohibited material to be broadcast via the Internet to users in Singapore.
These include depictions of nudity or genitalia "in a manner calculated to titillate", promotion of sexual activity or racial hatred and advocation of homosexuality or lesbianism.
Said MDA's director for media content and standards, Ms Amy Chua: "Based on the feedback on the posts in the 'erotic category' of craigslist Singapore,MDAis looking into the matter and will take appropriate action against craigslist Singapore for any breaches of the Internet Code."
Under the Broadcasting Act, the MDA can impose sanctions or fines on licensees who contravene the Code.
Lawyer Satwant Singh said: "Whether sex is sold onthe streets or online, the act itself is illegal...
"The difficulty is in proving whether the online sex services were touted locally or overseas. In a case of a website or forum hosted overseas, the authorities may have a harder time prosecuting the perpetrators."
A police spokesman said they conduct regular island-wide enforcement operations against vice.
"With respect to information received on activities occurring over the Internet, if and when a report is made, police would evaluate the circumstances of each case, assess if a criminal offence is madeout and take action accordingly," the spokesman added.
UndertheWomen's Charter, anybody who procures a woman, whether locally or overseas, for the purpose of prostitution can be jailed not more than five years or fined not more than $10,000.
n. 1. (Mach.) The rounded or pointed top of a grinding mill spindle, forming a pivot on which the stone is balanced.