Craigslist, Second Life and the law – disability, society and openness.

I see via and outlined over on that the net community is struggling with issues of discrimination with a law suit that’s been filed against the popular online classifieds site, Craigslist. To fill you in from

Google,, AOL and Yahoo are helping defend online peer Craigslist against a lawsuit that would hold the Web site liable for discriminatory housing ads that appeared on its site.

The lawsuit against Craigslist was filed by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The committee argues that Craigslist has violated the Fair Housing Act by letting its users post ads in which they discriminate in seeking tenants, asking, for instance, for a “gay Latino” or a “clean, godly Christian male.” The lawsuit cites about 120 ads from July to October 2005.

Now I live in Australia and so don’t know about this “Fair Housing Act” spoken about, but it made me ask myself how I would feel if an ad appeared asking for a tenant that had a disability. Which, if you’ve just tuned in, I do.

I think the answer is, I’d feel bloody good.

Face it, no matter how much they protest they don’t, people discriminate. While I’m no aficionado on equal opportunity – far from it, I’m just your normal guy with a disability – here in Australia it seems the question is whether the discrimination is ‘fair’ in the circumstance (whatever that really means – ‘fair’ discrimination).

I mean, how do newspaper classifieds get on? They have personal columns; Guy seeks Guy for … Girl seeks Guy for … etc. I guess it’s to do with the ‘Act’ they operate under. Anyway, I digress.

Given my previous musings about the new spirit of openness that seems to be appearing on the net around all things web 2,0, I wonder if what’s happening on Craigslist with this lawsuit isn’t just one of those old rocks getting beaten against by a new wave in a growing ocean.

I mean isn’t openness better in that at least we know where we stand?

Rather than a negative, I see what’s happening on Craigslist as a positive indicator of society. It is an indication of acceptance of and an expressed desire for people to be included by other people. It’s saying to the people being offered tenancy ‘you’re wanted‘ in society.

The reverse also applies and is also seen, in the negative light, in access to the built environment – when I can’t get in a shop to spend my money, when transport isn’t accessible to everybody, society is saying ‘you’re not wanted‘.

Regardless of an ‘Act’ or any real or perceived discrimination, or an argument over a written law, we should be looking what it says about the spirit of the society we live in. Inclusion should be celebrated.

Notions of what society says about inclusion really stood out to me in Second Life (SL). You’ve got all sorts of weird looking people in there, but everyone I’ve met seems to get along and be accepting. I wonder if it’s because, much like Star Trek, most avatars are based around a walking human form.

When I first entered SL I went looking for a place to buy a wheelchair. In fact, the only efforts I’ve made to build anything in SL are to attempt to build a wheelchair that I can sit in. So far all I’ve managed is rubber looking hollow wheels.

Alright, so you can fly in SL, but my point is when I see in ‘First Life’, classifieds everywhere advertising a tenancy for a person with a disability I’ll really believe we are beginning to live anti-discrimination rather than just talk and make laws about it.

In the mean time, I’m backing openness.

[tags]openness, web 2.0, craigslist, google, discrimination, disability, inclusion, accecptance, society, yahoo, aol,, second life[/tags]

14 thoughts on “Craigslist, Second Life and the law – disability, society and openness.

  1. Bloody hell mate – you have hit a ton of issues right between the eyes!!
    Very powerful, very lifekludger!
    I wonder if the geeks at gnomedex might have time to kludge together a wheelchair for you in second life?? Or maybe you could inspire a competition to create a range of chairs – quiet wheels for conference presentations to that snazzy all-terrain number shown on rocketboom…

    Keep on challenging us, start the conversations, change the language, change the culture.

    Fang – Mike Seyfang

  2. Thanks Mike. I appreciate the feedback as alot of me went into that. I had read the thing on craigslist a couple days before in the wee hours. It wouldn’t let me go. So I came home from work Friday and just had to get it out. A song I like says it best – It only lives when you give it away.

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  4. My.. very impressive..

    ..especially "..I think the answer is, I’d feel bloody good."

    Just when you think you understand alot.. you realise there is more.

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  9. Dear Dave, I’m a student from Utrecht (Holland) and I’m writing a paper about disabled people in Second Life. I wondered if I could do an interview with you. Please let me know. Kind regards, Freek.

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