Craigslist legal battles, Craiglist legal battles, Craigslist stops erotic ads

Craigslist Consents to Stamp Out Prostitution Ads

November 07, 2008 12:30 PM
by Anne Szustek
The online classified ad site is now requiring that anyone posting ads in its “erotic services” category provide more personal info. But will this keep the illicit sex trade away?

Craigslist Moves to Prevent Prostitution

In a formal agreement with 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, Craigslist pledged to clamp down on prostitution advertisements.

States had been battling with the popular free online classifieds service for months to get it to screen out ads for the sale or purchase of sex. Conn. state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had been pushing Craigslist since March to filter out ads from prostitutes, which he says often include adult photos, explicit descriptions of available services and hourly rates.

Users can advertise on Craigslist free of charge, except for real estate and job listings in some markets and categories. But from now on, anyone plying “erotic services” will need to supply a valid credit card number and a working phone number, leaving a paper trail to trace illicit activity.

In addition, Craigslist has agreed to tag the erotic services section to streamline content with parental screening software, more thorough filters to catch euphemisms, and search functions to help law enforcement officials track illegal activity that may occur on the site.

Blumenthal, pleased with the agreement, said in a statement, “Prostitutes will hopefully stop using Craigslist to break the law, knowing that their posts could lead to arrest and conviction.”

Ill. state Attorney General Lisa Madigan also praised Craigslist’s move. “This agreement is intended to be a first step to make sure that Craigslist begins to address the prostitution and exploitation of women that occurs online,” she said in a statement.

Both Illinois and Connecticut have arrested people in connection with advertising prostitution on Craigslist.

Others are skeptical about the potential efficacy of Craigslist’s new rules, however. “Since the new provisions only apply to the ‘erotic services’ section, we expect Craigslist’s hookers to just move onto new turf on the site,” writes Silicon Alley Insider’s Eric Krangel.

Background: Craigslist crimes and arrests

In light of a Connecticut woman’s recent arrest for advertising prostitution on Craigslist, in March Attorney General Blumenthal submitted a letter to the site’s lawyer, Barry Reingold, demanding that the classified site take steps to clamp down on prostitution listings.

“I am astonished and appalled by Craigslist’s refusal to recognize the reality of prostitution on its Web site—despite advertisements containing graphic photographs and hourly rates, and widespread public reports of prostitutes using the site,” Blumenthal wrote.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster stressed that the Web site had already taken measures to monitor erotic service ads before hearing from Blumenthal. “Mr. Blumenthal’s office is aware of these improvements, and we are disappointed that he has not recognized the tremendous progress we are making,” Buckmaster was cited as writing in The New Haven Register (Conn).

Craigslist, which has been criticized in the past for its seemingly lax attitude toward users’ postings, has recently been in the news again for several instances of visitors using the site to break the law. Kelly O’Connell, an editor at Internet Business Law Services, writes that Craigslist attracts crime because it has no registration requirements.

O’Connell identifies the four main types of crime perpetrated via Craigslist: phishing, which is often about identity theft, prostitution, the trade in stolen or nonexistent goods and violent crime.

In Oregon, a 33-year-old man was recently arrested for a hoax in which he listed an infant for sale. Another resident of the state lost most of his belongings when a couple trying to cover up a burglary posted a false ad saying he was giving all of his possessions away for free. In Jan. 2007, two women in Chicago were arrested for offering sex in exchange for “donations” or “roses”; they had advertised their services on Craigslist. Roughly a year later, a Northern California woman seeking hired killers on Craigslist was charged with murder for hire.

But overall, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch says that Craigslist is simply a mirror of our society, reflecting both the good and the bad.

 “Craigslist has it all—sex, drugs, humiliation and more,” Arrington writes. “But for the most part Craigslist is just a really good place to find a job, or a boyfriend, or to buy cheap furniture for your dorm room.”



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