ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING CRAIGSLIST told Congress on September 15 that the ubiquitous Web classifieds site was closing its adult section.Â Under intense scrutiny from the government and crusading advocacy groups, as well as state attorneys general, owner Craig Newmark memorably applied the label “Censored” in his classifieds where adult advertising once appeared. During the same September hearing of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary, members of Congress listened to vivid and chilling accounts regarding underage prostitution.
The congressmen heard testimony from half a dozen nonprofit executives and law enforcement officials. But the most alarming words of the day came from Deborah Richardson, the chief program officer of the Women’s Funding Network. She told legislators that juvenile prostitution is exploding at an astronomical rate. “An independent tracking study released today by the Women’s Funding Network shows that over the past six months, the number of underage girls trafficked online has risen exponentially in three diverse states,” Richardson claimed. “Michigan: a 39.2 percent increase; New York: a 20.7 percent increase; and Minnesota: a staggering 64.7 percent increase.”
In the wake of this bombshell revelation, Richardson’s disturbing figures found their way into some of the biggest newspapers in the country. USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press all repeated the dire statistics as gospel. The successful assault on Craigslist was followed by a cross-country tour by Richardson and the Women’s Funding Network. None of the media that published Richardson’s astonishing numbers bothered to examine the study at the heart of her claim. If they had, they would have found what we did after asking independent experts to examine the research: It’s junk science.After all, the numbers are all guesses.Â The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science. Eric Grodsky, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who teaches about proper research construction, says that the study is fundamentally flawed.
I really hate it when people do this. While their premise is good, ie. that the trafficing of underage females for sex occurs and it is bad, it is not acceptable to falsify data to make your point.