I assume that virtually everyone on this site finds discriminatory housing practices to be abhorrent, and thinks the 1968 Fair Housing Act is a good piece of legislation. That certainly sums up my opinion.

But what do you think of this:

Craigslist, the online do-it-yourself classified forum, is being sued because some apartment rental advertisers have used language on the site such as “No kids allowed,” “No minorities,” or “Africans and Arabians tend to clash with me.”

The advertisers are clearly doing something wrong. But should Craigslist be sued? Is Craigslist more like a commercial newspaper, which is responsible for the content of classified ads, or more like a town square? If I hear people saying terrible things on a park bench, I can't blame the city which provided them with a place to sit.

Craigslist carries 8 million new classified ads per month, with a staff of only 19 employees, making it impossible to police all ads with its current low-price model. (However, readers are able to flag offensive ads, and the “No minorities” ad was caught in this way and removed with two hours.)

This presents us with an interesting challenge for the Internet age. Are we willing to allow some things we find repugnant to happen, in order to allow the frictionless, inexpensive communication the Internet enables? Or are we willing to give some of that up to prevent these types of situations? Comments?  [The Tom Peters Weblog]

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