While Craigslist is an invaluable resource in a lot of ways, there has been a rash of violent crimes recently surrounding the free site. On April 1, 2009, 20-year-old Michael John Anderson was given life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering 24-year-old Katherine Ann Olson. He placed a fraudulent ad on Craigslist seeking a babysitter only to shoot the woman once she arrived at the home. Reportedly, he simply wanted to know what it felt like to kill.
In related news, the Boston area has experienced two killings within one week. The killings are now believed to have been perpetrated by the same man, dubbed the Craigslist Killer or the .com Killer. Both victims were solicited from Craigslist and subsequently shot. On April 16, the Craigslist Killer was also suspected of tying a woman up and robbing her at gunpoint, but fleeing before she was seriously injured.
As of April 21, however, this particular spree of Craigslist related violence might have been quelled. Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old medical student, was arrested on suspicion of murder and held without the possibility of bail. Investigators traced the IP address of his computer to emails sent to the slain victim Julissa Brisman.
Reacting to Olson’s murder and this trend of cyber-violence in general, Court Attorney Patrick Ciliberto was quoted as saying, “As much of a good force that the Internet is, it is also a force for evil.”
In light of these senseless killings, this gut reaction can feel like a reasonable response. But when considered, this attack on the internet is a counterproductive way to deal with cybercrime. The killers could just as easily have connected through the newspaper or any other means. The internet has certainly increased the ease and speed of connections between individuals, but any negative impact from that connection must still be placed solely on the individuals perpetrating the crimes.