Revenge flaggers on Craigslist: Why is your life so empty?
WFFH: Why Craigslist needs to take notes from Freecycle: Get humans to confirm legitimate flagging
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on August 14, 2022. (“Work Fluently From Home,” or WFFH, is a series within “Window Shopping” geared toward entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, gig workers and startups.)
Whenever I think no one could possibly be pettier than the Jennifer “BBQ Becky” Schultes or Teresa “Bookbag Becky” Kleins or the Amy “Birdwatcher Becky” Coopers of the world, here comes someone to tell me to hold their virtual latte. They’ve got a point to prove! This time around, it’s Craigslist flaggers — who have a disturbing pattern of far too much time on their hands and the itch to snitch. Even more disturbing, their nastier reason for flagging other posts: competitors.
If you’ve managed to luck out and avoid them (I somehow did for a full decade before this summer), they’re a group of people who go out of their way to flag legitimate posts. Unlike Freecycle, which has human beings as moderators who verify whether each post has broken any policy rules, Craigslist operates under a mix of a tattletale system and the amount of flags a post gets. If the post gets enough people to flag it, it’ll just come down.
Sometimes Craigslist users will get a “Removed” notification via email. Other times, Craigslist users will have no idea their posts were removed until they log in and see the pink highlighter. Even worse, Craigslist will not even tell these users why their posts were removed or what to fix. Users will be sent to a forum full of disturbingly bored and spiteful people either cracking jokes about why they don’t like certain posts or making the most random generalizations as if all posts in that category are suspicious.
Even worse, there are insanely idiotic companies like Best Flagger that proudly boast about how they have “an awesome Technic [sic] to remove your competitors craigslist ads.”
(Using myself as an example, I wanted to give away a collection of dog collars, dog harnesses, dog fur brushes, dog leashes and a dog stand from my deceased German Shepherd. Both my mother and I got new dogs, but they’re both way too short or too small to fit into my prior dog’s supplies. Still, all of the posts — including new items — were removed at least eight times. Because I am stubborn and an energy matcher, I took that as a personal challenge to list those same items 20 more times — posting under different categories, in different varieties and quantities, and changing the name. As a post was deleted, I kept re-adding it until sane Craigslist users [and my mail carrier, who I had no idea even had dogs] helped me rehome these items.)
Initially I tried to justify the flagging as someone worried I was a dog fighter and disguising a puppy mill identity. I didn’t get hip to this being personal and targeted until a different post full of men’s razors and a razor kit were also removed. Now why are potential barbers getting their cutting chances ruined too?