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Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert, a public-interest attorney and journalist, is the Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership.

Stick to your principles Craig!

Q: In defending Craigslist against charges that it facilitates prostitution and casual sex and undermines the news business, founder Craig Newmark relies on an unwavering commitment to free expression, free markets and an open Internet. Is such an unwavering commitment to core principles the essence of leadership, or is leadership more about accommodating core principles to other social needs and values?

Like Craig Newmark, I am a vigorous advocate of the First Amendment and an open internet. Government should not prohibit nor interfere in the content of Craigslist's ads. Where there is concrete evidence of criminal activity or obscenity, the government can request that particular ads be taken down. Craigslist can then make decisions on a case by case basis. But pressure from the government for removal of all ads is both unnecessary and a significant overreach.

The larger decision about whether Craigslist should or should not accept these types of ads is not really a First Amendment question, but rather a business decision that must balance the revenue boon against concerns raised by some consumers that the ads are morally offensive to them and will thus stop doing business with the site. Will continuation of the ads tarnish the brand to the detriment of its future business operations?

In the early days of "alternative newspapers," the Village Voice and other local papers faced similar attacks but today freely publish a range of personal ads. While some argue these ads facilitate prostitution, casual sex and undermine journalistic expertise, it is hard to see any evidence of that. Once the election season is over, it is doubtful anyone but the most ardent will care about Craigslist's personal ads. Stick to your principles Craig!

By Kathryn Kolbert

 |  September 8, 2010; 11:09 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership , Ethics , Government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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