Keep getting flagged on craigslist. Want to conform. Don't know how.
May 11, 2011 1:15 PM   Subscribe

craigslist ad is being flagged repeatedly within 10 minutes of going live. NYC Computer Services. Yes, I have followed every. single. instruction. Does someone have experience with this?

My small Mac-focused IT company used to get new clients through craigslist. However, beginning about 6 months ago we haven't been able to keep an ad alive for more than 10 minutes.

I have been to the "flag help" forum on craigslist. The only thing that I have changed based on their advice was to remove a graphical display of our logo with contact information (it was just black text on white background, nothing outrageous).

Some details:
*we never post multiple ads at once
*we advertise in the Computer Services section
*we state our rates
*we post to the general Manhattan section as we travel to all neighborhoods. But posting to individual neighborhoods also results in removal.
*we have an email address, url and phone number in the ad
*we have no images in the ads
*we wait at least 48 hours after being flagged to attempt posting again

I am extremely frustrated by this. I know some cragistlist users are very particular about how ads appear. But I just don't know what we're doing that warrants complaint.

A few months ago we put a tracking image in the ad. The ad was flagged but the image had apparently never been accessed.

Is there something I'm missing? Is it possible that someone is purposely flagging our ads for an inappropriate reason? People in the Flag Help forum said that craigslist might be "flushing" the Computer Services section. But this has been happening for 6 months, and plenty of our competitors have similar ads that stay up.

Can anyone offer advice?
posted by reeddavid to Computers & Internet (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My assumption is that you have a competitor who doesn't want your ads up, and is flagging them as soon as you post them (rss feed?). Sorry.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

Is it possible that someone is purposely flagging our ads for an inappropriate reason?

In my experience - yes, it is. The inappropriate reason in this case is competition - other companies offering similar services to yours are flagging your ads as inappropriate to get it removed so as not to compete with their ads. It's a BIG problem on Craigslist.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:24 PM on May 11, 2011

Is it possible that someone is purposely flagging our ads for an inappropriate reason?

Probable, actually. People always flag their competition, especially in huge areas like New York, even though that sort of thing is against the rules. Nothing you can do about that.

Also, every time you get flagged enough times to be removed, the easier it is to flag and remove you the next time. There's some sort of algorithm CL has for this, which varies by locality, section, and the whims of the admins, along with the number of flags needed for removal. Nothing you can do about this either.

One thing you might try, in addition to what you've already done, is have someone else post your ad for you, using a different CL account, preferably from a different (but still local) IP address. If you've been using the same account this whole time, it's been flagged so much that the system is probably letting a single flag take you down every time at this point.

Also, switch up your ad copy a little bit every time you post, don't just copy and paste the same exact text every time. Change the words around a little bit, so that it won't look like you're spamming.
posted by Gator at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is just a guess, but having experienced something similar (also in the NYC craigslist) its all I can come up with:
1. Your rates come across as lowball and your competition doesn't like it.
2. Your competitors just want to flag you to make it more difficult to do business.

As far as I can tell, there's no published info on how many flags something needs in order to be removed, but I think the threshold is pretty low.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2011

If posting ads on Craigslist is this time-consuming and counterproductive for you...don't post ads on Craigslist.

I'd explore other advertising avenues: Google, social media, a web presence, etc, rather than trying to solve a problem that likely will not be solveable by you.

From everything I have read about Craigslist it prides itself on not being a conventional company, which has both its strong and weak points. It sounds like you have run into one of its weak points. Perhaps it is time to move along.
posted by dfriedman at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, here is their phone number: 1-415-566-6394.

However, I've had the exact same problem as you, and they refused to help, even when it was an ad that I paid for. To be honest, they were pretty dickish. So, what dfriedman said. Try another venue, because Craigslist doesn't appear to care one way or another whether an ad is legit or not.
posted by nushustu at 1:36 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: blaneyphoto--

We charge $75/hr for service. Others certainly charge higher, but I don't think we're in the lowball category.
posted by reeddavid at 1:37 PM on May 11, 2011

I had this experience when posting a "help wanted" ad in "gigs" for a crew position on a movie.

There was nothing the least bit offensive or inappropriate about it, but they kept flagging it. There was no way I could find out who was doing it or why. I ended up posting in the "Jobs" section where it costs $25 to post. I realize this isn't an option for you, so i don't know what else to tell you unfortunately.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:37 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: Gator--

I tried posting today from another account (though same IP address) with the same result (alive for 9 minutes).
posted by reeddavid at 1:38 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the input so far. It's discouraging because craigslist has such a huge audience. We'd be happy to pay to advertise to the audience, but it doesn't work that way. And from what nushustu said, even that wouldn't bring any recourse.

A newspaper ad can't be flagged, but thanks to craigslist no one looks there anyway.
posted by reeddavid at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2011

Maybe you are putting too much information in. Try less. Saying enough to get people to understand what you are offering without telling them who you are. Use a URL shortener to link to your site, instead of the actual URL. Don't make it easy for your competition to auto-flag your posts.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:47 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: caution live frogs--

I just posted a new ad with very brief, completely new copy and no identifiable contact information. Also no rates. Posted form my personal account. I'll come back with a status update!
posted by reeddavid at 2:03 PM on May 11, 2011

I just tweeted this thread to @craignewmark, and he very quickly has replied very quickly:
@artlung please email me the specifics, and please, no assumptions
The email address is here:, though I'm not sure it's right, so tweeted him that question as well.

Abusive flagging sounds like something craigslist would be motivated to fix. I know Facebook has been dealing with that problem as well. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, everywhere.
posted by artlung at 2:05 PM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: artlung--

Thanks! Should I read his response to mean that he wants the ad copy?
posted by reeddavid at 2:14 PM on May 11, 2011

I think what you want to send him is the whole story you've described here, but also include specifics about your business, the email address you use to post, etc. It might be helpful to include examples of posts similar to yours which seem not to have problem.

I think it's important to use a tone of "well, this is what is happening" rather than jumping to a conclusion. Just tell the symptoms, and let him work it out. He is, after all, Craig. If he replies to my question about email I will post it here.
posted by artlung at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2011

In Manhattan it will take anywhere from hundreds to thousands of flags to take an ad off, so it's not likely your competitors unless there is massive collusion or they have constructed a network of IPs from which to flag. There is only one flag per IP address.
posted by rhizome at 2:21 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: caution live frogs--

Regrading our experiment: The add I just posted (with no identifying information) was just flagged after exactly 25 minutes.
posted by reeddavid at 2:27 PM on May 11, 2011

I still think you should try it from another CL account and a different (local) IP address -- maybe email the ad text to a local friend and have them post it using their account.

And again, the more times your account gets flagged, the fewer flags it takes to take down your next post. The Unofficial Flagging FAQ mentions this as well.
posted by Gator at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2011

Craig's email address for support is craig at (see this tweet).

Refer to @artlung and point to this thread in your email.

Best of luck!
posted by artlung at 2:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: rhizome--

I know it is supposed to take hundreds or thousands of flags, but look how quickly this happens. Could there really be enough legitimate flags in these time windows? Here's how long our ads have been live since April.

May 11: 9 minutes
May 9: 2 hours 23 minutes
May 5: 20 minutes
April 25: 29 minutes
April 11: 18 minutes
April 4: 1 hour 16 minutes
posted by reeddavid at 2:38 PM on May 11, 2011

I'd be interested in seeing the text of the ad to see if I would read it as easily flaggable.
posted by dgeiser13 at 2:50 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: dgeiser13--

I just emailed the ad text to the email in your profile. Let me know your instinct. Thanks!
posted by reeddavid at 2:59 PM on May 11, 2011

In Manhattan it will take anywhere from hundreds to thousands of flags to take an ad off,
posted by rhizome

Is this your guess or based on factual information because I have a very hard time believing that.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: artlung--

I just emailed Craig. Thanks the recommendation. Will report back if he is able to get back to me.
posted by reeddavid at 3:14 PM on May 11, 2011

Is this your guess or based on factual information because I have a very hard time believing that.

The exact formula is a secret, but it's somewhere in there (i.e. higher) for high traffic locations such as NYC.
posted by rhizome at 3:41 PM on May 11, 2011

This happened to me as well. I was selling my convertible tops from my old Jeep, and I guess that (being the honest guy that I am) the price was too low, and it annoyed others trying to get much more, because the ad kept getting flagged, usually within a couple of hours. As with you, there was no reason at all for any flags. We 're talking a private sale of used merchandise, with a basic description, pictures, and a phone number. Absolutely no reason at all to flag that post. I gave up, and sold them within a day using the Buy And Sell instead. You might try them instead, I know many small business operators that used them in the past for the same purposes you do.

I mentioned this to a friend trying to sell his appliances from renos he was doing to two of his rental properies, and he told me the same thing happened to him as well. He was offering really good prices for good condition appliances, as he really just wanted to get rid of them. What was interesting was that he got quite a few emails from second-hand appliance dealers wanting to take them on consignment, in spite of the ads being up for a very short time, as in your case and mine.

It seems that CL has become too popular, and the scammers have started targeting it. I too would be interested if any solution can be reached, as I have some more unneeded items I wanted to get rid of.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:09 PM on May 11, 2011

Mod note: Folks, this needs to not turn into general craigslist flag chatter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:41 PM on May 11, 2011

It seems that CL has become too popular, and the scammers have started targeting it

FWIW I used to use craigslist for stuff but I've stopped using in the last year because it became more untrustworthy and such a seedy place with scams and bogus crap more prevalent (in my experience) than the usefulness I've gotten from it in the past.

My advise would be to seek other advertising outlets because I think you are definitely getting maliciously played by a competitor. Good luck. Maybe you will be the one to reform the flag system!
posted by fuq at 6:21 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: Just an update-

I emailed craig with the details posted here as well as the ad text. He replied to tell me that he wasn't sure what they can do, but that he was sharing the information with the team.
posted by reeddavid at 6:34 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's quite likely that someone has written a script to flag certain ads. This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I just tried another experiment. I posted the following ad from a different email address:

Title: NYC Macintosh Support

We offer help with all manner of Mac computer support. Email today for more information.

It was flagged & removed in 9 minutes flat.

Have not heard back again from Craig Newmark but will post here if I do.
posted by reeddavid at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: Another update to anyone still checking.

I posted another ad and included an invisible tracking image.

Ad was posted at 8:13pm
Tracking image accessed once at 8:16pm
Ad was flagged & removed at 8:32pm

So the ad was accessed once immediately after it became viewable. Then 16 minutes later it was flagged & removed.
posted by reeddavid at 5:45 PM on May 12, 2011

Is there a reason you're reluctant to get it posted from a different IP address?
posted by Gator at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Gator--

Not reluctant, just a bit slow on that one. I will try posting from a different IP.
posted by reeddavid at 9:21 PM on May 12, 2011

Title: NYC Macintosh Support

We offer help with all manner of Mac computer support. Email today for more information.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if this is your whole ad, it sucks and is rightly flagged. As they say in the flag forums, "your ad must stand on its own," and sometimes, "you aren't paying by the word."
posted by rhizome at 10:37 PM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: rhizome--

That was very much not the whole ad. I was just trying to eliminate any identifying information, in case someone was searching for our name, phone number, email address, website, or unique phrasing. If you're curious about the regular ad text, shoot me an email and I'll reply with the copy.
posted by reeddavid at 10:41 PM on May 12, 2011

Any luck in working with CL, reeddavid?
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:21 AM on May 18, 2011

Response by poster: dgeiser13--

I think something has possibly changed. On Monday I posted an ad that was flagged and removed after 6 hours. But yesterday (Thursday) I posted an ad that has been up for almost 24 hours. I don't want to jinx anything here, but this is somewhat of an improvement. If this ad makes it the whole week and I don't have further problems, I think I will conclude that the Craigslist team did something to help. Whether they just helped my account because I was a squeaky wheel or whether they changed something category-wide, I don't know. I'll keep updating this thread with any new news.
posted by reeddavid at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2011

Sounds like a hopeful result. Nice!
posted by artlung at 10:14 AM on May 20, 2011

I see your ad is still up. Good on ya. I hope they implemented a systemic change rather than just for you.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2011

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