On Sunday, the Chronicle reported on how Craigslist has failed to eradicate its prostitution “problem”. Are you surprised at this outcome?

Since May, Craigslist has promised to review sex ads more thoroughly. As a result, more overt solicitations such as “fuck me tonight,” have given way to vaguely worded offers such as “let’s have a night of intimate companionship.” Essentially, we’ve entered into a battle over semantics.

If you are looking for online companionship and are worried that you might fall victim to a prostitute, allow me to give you a brief tutorial on what to avoid.

First, take a look at this ad.

Ostensibly, it looks harmless. A clothed, neck-up picture. Eloquent, well written prose. This is the type of girl you want to have a casual encounter with. Look closer.

The reason the picture is so perfect is because it is not real. It’s the type of picture you see filling a picture frame in the Hallmark store. A more sexualized version albeit, but a filler photo nonetheless.

Then there is the paragraph itself. An ad composed by an actual person would reflect the flawed nature of people. It would have the occasional grammatical mistake, the occasional misspelled word. Misspellings would increase two-fold if the ad were written in a particularly randy state of mind. But this ad is absent any flaws. It is too perfect, and that is because it was crafted to be just so.

The contrary to this is also true. Take a look at this ad

The author of this post has intentionally introduced characters and shapes to offset the spelling of the title, thereby confusing online filters that scan for prostitution buzz words. Scroll down the ad and see how the text confirms these suspicions.

Craigslist could do as I have done and create an algorithm to filter prostitution ads. They could hire a boatload of people to police the thousands of individual city pages. But the prostitutes will find a new way to post that tricks the filters, in the same way prostitutes find a new street corner when police close one down.

Prostitutes are flexible creatures.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist CEO, puts it best: “[we] have no more ability to read the minds of people placing ads as do editors in newspapers and yellow pages.”

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