Craigslist reportedly asks search engines to stop indexing its posts

Alleged action follows a lawsuit filed by the online bulletin board to prevent data harvester 3taps and apartment listings aggregator PadMapper from exporting its listings.

PadMapper collects all listings around a specific city or ZIP code from Craigslist and other services and displays them on a Google map. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Craigslist is allegedly ramping up its efforts to keep PadMapper from displaying the online bulletin board's listings.

Craigslist has reportedly asked general search engines to stop indexing its postings, effectively cutting off data harvester 3taps and those who use its API, including the popular apartment listings aggregator. The request was made Monday, according to 3taps' Twitter feed.

"We are sorry CL has chosen this course of action and are exploring options to restore service," 3taps said in a tweet today. "We may be down for an extended period."

CNET has contacted Craigslist for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

However, a quick glance at Google reveals that Craigslist listings are still appearing on the popular search engine. Also, a review of Craigslist's robots.txt file -- a simple code that sites use to prevent bots from indexing their pages -- reveals that it's apparently unchanged from last year, long before this brouhaha kicked up.

PadMapper collects all listings around a specific city or ZIP code from Craigslist and other services and displays them on a Google map, allowing users to search by area, apartment size, and rental price. However, that arrangement didn't sit well with Craigslist, which last month sent PadMapper creator Eric DeMenthon a cease-and-desist letter that claimed the app violated its terms of use.

The popular portal's terms of service prohibit "copying, aggregation, display, distribution, performance, or derivative use of Craigslist or any content posted on Craigslist."

But PadMapper resumed displaying the listings after announcing it had found a " legally kosher " way to circumvent a Craigslist ban on displaying its listings. The solution was provided by 3taps, which has created an API that harvests data from Craigslist postings by "indirect means," meaning they aren't subject to the Internet bulletin board's terms of use, DeMenthon said.

That development led Craigslist to sue PadMapper and 3taps late last month, accusing the pair of "unlawfully and unabashedly mass-harvesting and redistributing postings entrusted by Craigslist users to their local Craigslist sites," according to the complaint. "This exploitation of Craigslist content undermines the integrity of local Craigslist communities, ultimately harming both Craigslist and its users."

 

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