"I actually think that the creators of Craigslist had no intent of harming society. They came in with good intentions," says Jason Chan, Assistant Professor of Information and Decision Sciences at the Carlson School of Management. "At the same time, they did not anticipate that users could use the features in an unexpected way with unintended consequences."
The researchers analyzed data from 33 states, with a time range between 1999 and 2008, and they mapped how HIV numbers were affected when Craigslist began offering services for a new town. They believe this is because of the personal ads section of Craigslist, which is often used by people soliciting sex. Over 6,000 cases, worth over $62 million in healthcare costs, can be attributed to the website annually, according to the study.
"Our study results suggest that there is a new social route of HIV transmission that is taking place in this digital era," says Chan. "Health care practitioners and policymakers have to look more closely at online platforms to assess how its usage may facilitate the spread of HIV and STDs across the country."
The study is published in MIS Quarterly.