[Guest post by DRJ]
I love the internet and even though I don’t browse any controversial websites, I don’t mind that they exist. But articles like this from Oregon make me think twice about whether we need to rein in the internet:
“A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.
The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.
But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.
On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.
“I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back,” Salisbury said. “They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did.”
Salisbury lost most of his property to numerous people, although he was able to take down the license plates of some. Apparently most of the people who took items were convinced they had the right to take the items because of the notices they saw on Craigslist.
Fortunately for Salisbury, the woman who wanted the horse had the sense to check to see if the notice was valid or he might not have had any information about what happened. In addition, authorities are working to track down who placed the Craigslist notices.
It’s an interesting dilemma. The law can deal with property issues like theft and conversion, and the fake notice may be actionable as criminal or civil fraud. However, I don’t think people will be happy with an unregulated internet if stories like this become more common.
UPDATE 4/1/2008: The perpetrators have apparently been caught. See NK’s comment.