Online classifieds company Craigslist has reached an agreement with 40 state attorneys general to screen its erotic services section for 'illegal' content.
Craigslist will require advertisers to provide valid identification and will charge the
vendors a fee of about $10. Vendors also will be required to provide a valid credit card, according to a report in the New York Times.
Craigslist said the money will be donated to charities working on child exploitation and human trafficking
On behalf of 39 other state attorney generals, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal earlier this year sent a letter to Craigslist demanding that it remove the erotic ads and enforce its own rules against prostitution.
They identified ads that were crossing the line, s aid Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist. We looked at those ads, we saw their point and we resolved to see what we could do to get that stuff off the site.
Craigslist asked the advertisers to provide a valid phone number, and using an automated system, called them advertisers to read a series of digits. The advertisers then had to type into a web page before their ad would appear on the site. Craigslist
said that reduced the number of ads.
Buckmaster said: The mere act of authentication will be a very significant deterrent. There are very few prostitutes who want to be called by Craigslist and asked to give additional identifying information.”
Craigslist also filed 14 lawsuits in San Francisco against companies that were helping advertisers circumvent the telephone verification system by generating Internet telephone numbers that could be used temporarily and then discarded.
Chicago's sheriff has filed a lawsuit against Craigslist, saying the site may be the No. 1 source of prostitution in the United States and is straining his department's ability to enforce the law.
The suit claims that changes Craigslist enacted
in November to its erotic services section have done little to curb prostitution, sex trafficking and child pimping on the site. It seeks a court order requiring the site to close the section and to pay the costs the department incurs in cracking down on
hookers and Johns who use the it.
The sheriff conducts stings through Craigslist regularly, the complaint, filed Federal Court in Chicago said. However, the deluge of erotic services postings taxes its resources. The sheer number of
daily postings has made it impossible to stymie Craigslist generated prostitution.
Under the new requirements announced in November, erotic services advertisers must first register with the site using a computerized telephone verification
routine and pay a $5 fee (most ads are free). The site promises to turn over telephone and credit card information to law enforcement agencies with a valid court order.
The lawsuit contended. Pimps and prostitutes continue to post more than 300
posts per day to Chicago's erotic services section: While defendant does not profit from erotic services per se, erotic services is the catalyst behind Craigslist being the ninth most popular website in the country. Erotic services enables defendant
to charge fees of up to $75 per post for job openings due to the significant web traffic garnered by erotic services."
Craigslist has released statistics it touted as evidence of its 'success' in reducing the volume of erotic services ads appearing on the Web classified site in an apparent response to a federal lawsuit that accuses the site of facilitating
The number of ads for such services is down 90-95% during the past 12 months on Craigslist sites that serve five major U.S. cities, according to information posted on a company blog. The site credited the spectacular reduction on its joint effort with 40 attorneys general which included the introduction of new measures that require posters to the erotic section to furnish a working phone number and credit card:
with the Attorneys General and law enforcement.
Finally, net revenue is accumulating from the fees now required of those posting under "erotic services," 100% of which is earmarked for donation to worthy
charities, and we will soon be in position to begin distributing these funds.
The blog posting is an apparent response to a federal lawsuit filed against Craigslist by the sheriff of Illinois' Cook County, alleging that the
Web's largest classifieds publication is facilitating prostitution. Sheriff Tom Dart asked the court to force Craigslist to remove the Web publication's erotic section and for $100,000 in compensation for the man-hours the county has had to pay
police to investigate alleged criminal services being advertised on the site.
Craigslist isn't closing down the well-visited erotic services section of the ad-posting site, though it will continue to work to remove inappropriate material.
Appearing on ABC's Nightline site founder Craig Newmark said users
already flag questionable postings.
As reported by AVN.com, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Craigslist outlining steps to combat the proliferation of prostitution and pornography on the ad site, including
the banning of photos in the erotic services section and the hiring of staff to screen for violating images.
Despite accusations that Craigslist enables and aids in prostitution, including a lawsuit filed in Illinois by the Cook Country Sheriff's
office, Internet legal experts believe such actions won't be effective as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states websites are immune from liability when users of the site violate state law.
Craigslist has claimed that erotic
services postings have dwindled since new restrictions and criteria were put into place.
US attorneys general have met with Craigslist to discuss concerns that the free online classified service is being used to advertise prostitution.
We are optimistic that our shared concerns can be addressed while preserving the
beneficial aspects of Craigslist...without compromising the quintessentially American values of free speech embodied in our Constitution, the website's chief executive Jim Buckmaster told AFP after the meeting.
Missouri misery attorney
general Chris Koster said prior to the meeting that he intended to begin negotiating with Craigslist representatives to eliminate Erotic Services ads that amount to little more than offers of sex for sale.
US law protects Craigslist and
other websites from being responsible for content posted by users, the website's lawyers argue.
Craigslist is responsible for the types of advertisements it allows, and it is imperative that Craigslist agree to tougher restrictions and to
remove ads for illegal activities from its site, Koster claimed.
Pressure from US officials has forced classified advertising website Craigslist to pull the shutters down on its controversial sex adverts in favour of a new, closely-monitored system.
Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster said the site would
be closing the erotic services category next week. Instead, the site will open a new adult services category, in which every advert will be manually approved by staff before it is seen by members of the public.
Each posting to
today will be an acceptable compromise.
The website has consistently rejected claims that it encourages prostitution, saying that it had often assisted law enforcement in their investigations and kept records of everybody who had advertised
on the site. Despite such protestations, however, the attacks sparked a period of concerted pressure.
After similar public statements by politicians around the US, Buckmaster met with attorneys general from several US states in an attempt to
broker a truce. That meeting appears to have led to today's solution, which was greeted positively by officials.
Connecticut attorney general Dick Blumenthal, who was at the meeting last week, said that the change was a good move - but that the
site had to prove that it would continue its commitment: We're very encouraged that Craigslist is doing the right thing in eliminating its online red light district with prostitution and pornography in plain sight. We'll be watching and investigating
critically to make sure this measure is more than just a name change.
After receiving threats of criminal charges from South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster over its alleged refusal to block prostitution and graphic pornographic ads on the site, Craigslist yesterday sued McMaster, seeking declaratory relief and a
restraining order against the charges. In addition to being unwarranted by the facts, legal experts agree that the charges threatened represent an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, and are clearly barred by federal law, Craigslist
CEO Jim Buckmaster wrote in a blog post.
A number of state attorneys general went after Craigslist, prompting the company to voluntarily agree to remove the section entirely, and henceforth manually screen for prostitution or graphic pornography
McMaster, however, continued to threaten criminal prosecution against the company and its executives.
Despite Craigslist's legal immunity from criminal or civil liability under state law for unlawful third-party content on its
website, and despite the numerous good-faith actions that Craigslist has voluntarily taken to deter abuse of its service by third parties ... McMaster has persisted in threats to criminally prosecute Craigslist on the basis of third-party content
appearing on the Craigslist website, reads the company's legal complaint.
In a statement on Wednesday, McMaster backpedaled somewhat. Talk of a criminal investigation, supposedly already underway, was replaced with McMaster saying his office
will continue to monitor the site to make certain that our laws are respected.
Craigslist has been accused of returning old ways, running thinly veiled sex-for-hire ads and sparking a new round of 'outrage' from law enforcement.
Ads posted on the Internet giant have replaced pornographic photos and explicit sexual language
with shots of scantily clad women tantalizing would-be customers with love it like it's your last . . . have some fun with this sexy, attractive, vibrant young lady. My measurements are . . .
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley
ripped the Web site, saying its new adult services ads are basically no different than the old erotic services come-ons: A cursory look at the adult services section of the site shows no significant distinction from the 'erotic services'
section that preceded it, Conley told the Herald.
In Illinois, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, a staunch Craigslist critic, said the new revamped site has changed little from the old raunchy one. To say I've been less than overwhelmed by
Craigslist's new practices would be an understatement, Dart told the Herald.
In May, the site announced a crackdown on ads, ordering his employees to censor them for graphic sexual content.
Now instead of appearing naked, women
advertising adult services are pictured wearing bikinis and lingerie. And they rely on innuendo - and the user's familiarity with Craigslist - to get their message across.
The site now runs ads such as Upscale European Beauty Ready to
Play and all natural 40f's ... no disappointments and Let's have some late night fun!
A federal judge has summarily dismissed a lawsuit Chicago's sheriff brought against Craigslist, ruling that the website can't be sued for prostitution ads posted by its users.
The decision is a blow to Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Illinois's Cook
County, who argued the erotic services section of Craigslist violated prostitution laws because it arranges meetings and directs people to places where sex is sold. Dart sought a court order requiring the site to close the section and to
pay the costs his department incurred in cracking down on hookers and Johns who used the it.
The ruling by US District Judge John F. Grady is good news not only for Craigslist but for any US-based website that accepts comments, photos, or other
types of user-submitted content. The decision made it clear that a provision in the CDA, or Communications Decency Act, fully immunizes the site for user-supplied ads even when they provide contact details for prostitutes and brothels.
Craigslist does not 'provide' that information, its users do,
Grady wrote. 'Facilitating' and 'assisting' encompass a broader range of conduct, so broad in fact that they include the services provided by intermediaries like phone companies, ISPs, and computer manufacturers. Intermediaries are not culpable
for 'aiding and abetting' their customers who misuse their services to commit unlawful acts.
Craigslist has been subpoenaed by Connecticut's top law enforcement official, who is investigating whether the site is doing enough to get rid of ads for prostitution and other illegal activity.
The demand came from Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal who is co-heading a group of 39 states that has expressed concern over the ads. In addition to law enforcement agencies, nutter groups, opposed to the mostly hype human trafficking, have also criticized the ads.
estimated that sales this year from adult services will triple to about $36.3m compared with sales from 2009.
The craigslist brothel business seems booming - belying its promise to fight prostitution, Blumenthal said in a statement: The
best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on craigslist - skimpily and slickly disguised with code words. We are asking craigslist for specific answers about steps to screen and stop sex-for-money offers - and whether the company is actually
profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block.
In late 2008, Craigslist announced changes that for the first time required people posting to the site's red-light district to register using a
valid credit card and telephone number. Those caught posting inappropriate ads were threatened with being blacklisted.
Website officials also promised to donate the proceeds of those ads to charities that work to prevent human trafficking.
Craigslist later backed away from that promise and now refuses to say what it does with the ad sales. Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has defended the steps his employees take to filter out prostitution services, saying they go well beyond those carried
out by newspapers.
Dozens of people have protested in front of the Craigslist headquarters, calling on the popular website to close its Adult Services section and set a sex industry-free standard which would eliminate human trafficking on the Internet.
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Prostitution Research and Education and over 75 Co-Sponsors said technology should never be used to prostitute women and girls.
Protesters said a large portion of Craigslist profits come from the sale of
commercial sex. They say Craigslist normalizes and facilitates online pimping.
They become another channel. They become cyber pimps. The owners of Craigslist need to regulate their website, said Alfonso Faustino, a Filipino-America
candidate for California Assembly.
Members of the US Prostitutes Collective, who held a counter protest this afternoon, said stopping sex workers from advertising in Craigslist will do more harm than good.
Rachel West of US PROS said, Stopping sex workers from advertising in Craigslist will prevent women from being able to work more safely from premises. It is ten times safer to work indoors than on the street. When sex workers are forced out of premises, many end up working on the street and are more vulnerable to rape, violence and arrest as a result
Online marketplace Craigslist has responded to an open letter claiming the site helps promote prostitution.
A paid-for advert in The Washington Post saw two women make an appeal to close the site's adult section, saying it had wrecked their lives.
The ad featured a letter from a 17-year-old woman calling herself MC.
The letter said: I was first forced into prostitution when I was 11 years old by a 28-year-old man. All day, other girls and I sat with our laptops,
posting pictures and answering ads on Craigslist.
I am 17 now, and my childhood memories aren't of my family, going to middle school, or dancing at the prom. They are of making my own arrangements on Craigslist to be
sold for sex, and answering as many ads as possible for fear of beatings and ice water baths.
The letter said that Craigslist was now the choice of traffickers because it was so well known and there are rarely
consequences to using it for these illegal acts.
Craigslist responded by asking if the crimes had been reported to the police, adding it was combating trafficking. If Craigslist was misused, we want to learn more so we
can improve our preventative measures.
The firm's chief executive, Jim Buckmaster, replied by asking if the perpetrators are behind bars and if the advocacy groups who placed the adverts could let us know where the
police reports were filed. We have been unable thus far to identify police reports matching the crimes you describe. If anyone committing such crimes has not yet been apprehended and prosecuted, we want to do everything in our power to assist the police
in making that happen.
Connecticut's attorney general Richard Blumenthal - who is heading up a group of 39 US states examining Craigslist's adult services section - called on the section to be closed.
Earlier this year, the US
lawmaker subpoenaed Craigslist, and asked whether it is actually profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block.
Buckmaster said that Craigslist had now implemented manual screening of each
adult service ad, adding that it thought that the events described [in the advert in the Washington Post] may have occurred before manual screening was implemented .
Almost two years after 40 state attorneys general reached an agreement with Craigslist regarding its oversight of ads in the erotic services section, the pressure on the web-based classified service to shut down the section altogether is once again
gathering serious momentum.
The latest salvo comes from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who said the site should shutter the section and also be held responsible for crimes committed by people using its listing services.
Whether it's physical assault, sexual assaults, the kinds of prostitution and, some instances, homicides that have occurred as a result of what is un-policed trafficking online around the human sex trade,
Coakley is seeking congressional action. According to WBUR.org, she wants Congress to amend a 1996 federal law that gives websites like Craigslist immunity from prosecution for the illegal activities undertaken by users of the site:
The Internet is exempt from that, she said. And that may have made sense in 1996, but the consequences of no policing, no ability to enforce what is a level playing field for the Internet, has had all kinds of consequences.
Craigslist.org CEO Jim Buckmaster has said that the online classified site wants to work to address concerns raised by a group of state attorneys general that urged the firm this week to eliminate adult services ads.
We want to work with
the attorneys general to address all of their concerns, which we share, Buckmaster said in an e-mail response to Tech Daily Dose. Abdicating our responsibilities in the face of this demand would be a disaster for the very societal issues the AGs
hope to address. It would encourage the notion that government censorship can address complex societal challenges that will be met only through thoughtful, sustained investment in our communities.
Attorneys general from 17 states wrote
Buckmaster and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark calling on the firm to drop adult services section from the online classified ads offered on the site.
The attorneys general had written: Because Craigslist cannot, or will not, adequately screen
these ads, it should stop accepting them altogether and shut down the adult services section.
The online marketplace Craigslist has closed its adult services listings in the US.
The company has not said why it took the decision, but it has faced an ongoing barrage of criticism from attorneys general and nutters who claimed the
listing was a virtual tool for pimps and prostitutes.
The section has now been replaced with a black and white bar that reads censored . An erotic service is still active outside the US.
A statement from Craigslist executives
is expected in the coming days.
Last week in a joint letter to Craigslist, 17 attorneys general said women and children would continue to be victimised in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist .
General Richard Blumenthal, a persistent critic of both the erotic and adult listings Said: We welcome any steps toward eliminating the adult services section and prostitution ads on Craigslist, as we have urged, and we are seeking to verify the
site's official policy going forward .
but at Wired, Evan Hansen said: Internet services may accelerate and exacerbate some social problems like prostitution, but they rarely cause them. The root of these issues - and their solutions - lie
in the realm of public policy, not web sites.
Ladies & gentlemen, get ready for America's new moral panic—sex trafficking!
Yes, CraigsList has bowed to pressure from law enforcement, non-profits, and CNN, and has blocked access to its adult services section. They've replaced the
link with a black bar stamped censored. CraigsList has been pummeled with criticism for allegedly facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking in the U.S..
Craigslist has removed the censored bar it had placed over its adult services section after it shut down the section last weekend.
The site replaced the section with the black bar about a week after a group of state attorneys said there weren't
enough protections against blocking potentially illegal ads promoting prostitution.
Craigslist spokesperson Susan MacTavish would not comment but told the New York Times that the ads are still blocked.
The Times report said that analysts
speculate that Craigslist used the word censored to make a statement: Though Craigslist is not legally responsible for what people post on its site, state attorneys general and advocacy groups have been pressuring the company to shut down the
adult services section. But analysts also said that the outpouring of attention that Craigslist's sex ads have received in recent days would make it very difficult for the site to bring back the ads .
Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at
the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote that supporters of the First Amendment should loudly voice their opposition to this type of misguided rhetoric from elected officials.
Several mean minded campaign groups have praised Craigslist for shutting down its adult services section in the U.S., but called on the online classifieds Web site to do the same throughout the world.
We feel that Craigslist did the
right thing, and we thank Craigslist for voluntarily closing the section, Bradley Myles, executive director of the Polaris Project, said: We feel like as the largest classified ads site to have an adult services section, this action will help
prevent sexual predators from targeting women and children. There are more erotic ads outside the U.S. than there are inside the U.S., he said. We feel like if Craigslist is serious about addressing this issue … they have a global responsibility
to close all these sections immediately.
Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the Rebecca Project, also said that she was pleased that adult services was removed from the U.S. site, but urged Craigslist to show the same conscious
and commitment to girls internationally.
Craigslist removed the adult services section but put a censored image over the former adult services link rather than delete it permanently. When asked if that made it seem like
Craigslist was making a political statement rather than actually taking steps to combat sex trafficking, Myles and Saada Saar said they would like to think Craigslist was doing the right thing.
We want to think the best, and … we want to think
that [Craigslist founder Craig Newmark] is trying to do the right thing, Saada Saar said: That being said, we are absolutely saddened by the framing of it as censorship, she continued. This is not a First Amendment issue; this is not
a free speech issue. This is about human rights. When a child or woman is sold for sex, that is a human rights issue.
Comment: Craigslist isn't now free of sex – you just
can't pay for it
Why should sex, alone among all forms of human interaction, be thought to spawn malignant magic when money changes hands?
Adult services, of course, is a euphemism for sexual services. Lawmakers hated Craigslist from the get-go
because sex workers used it to advertise their services. Yet if you listen to politicians praise themselves now that the ads are gone, you won't hear much talk about banning activity between consenting adults. No, politicos prefer to invoke The Children.
In a statement her office released Saturday, California congresswoman Jackie Speier blamed websites such as Craigslist for child prostitution. We can't forget the victims, we can't rest easy. Child sex trafficking continues and lawmakers need to fight
future machinations of internet-driven sites that peddle children.
No argument there: forcing children into prostitution is an utterly abhorrent crime. Forcing anybody into prostitution is, and when callous sociopaths turn innocent victims
into sexual slaves for their own profit, it's undeniably good when police shut down these loathsome enterprises.
Yet when attorneys general started crusading against Craigslist, it wasn't kidnapping rapists they worried about, but adults who made
money selling consensual services.
For the last 12 years, I've dedicated immense amounts of time, money and energy to end violence against women and children. As a victim of violence myself, I'm deeply committed to destroying any institution or individual leveraging the sex-power matrix
that results in child trafficking, nonconsensual prostitution, domestic violence and other abuses.
If I believed that censoring Craigslist would achieve these goals, I'd be the first in line to watch them fall. But from the bottom of my soul and
the depths of my intellect, I believe that the current efforts to censor Craigslist's adult services achieves the absolute opposite. Rather than helping those who are abused, it fundamentally helps pimps, human traffickers and others who profit
off of abusing others.
Fresh from success at closing down the adult section of Craigslist, US censors are now targeting other small ads sites.
Village Voice Media and Backpage.com have issued a statement in response to a letter sent to them from 21 state attorneys
general demanding the closure of the adult services section on the online classified site. The response was a resounding if respectful no.
Backpage.com is a legal business and operates its website in accordance with all applicable laws, the
statement reads. In response to concerns raised by the AGs in recent months, Backpage.com has increased its efforts to provide clear, legal rules to users who post classified ads and to ban users who violate those rules. While no system is perfect,
even the AGs acknowledge Backpage.com's good-faith cooperation with law enforcement.
The company further states that while 58 million ads have been posted to the site in the past two years only 6 million have been in the adult services
section, and that state and federal authorities have asked Backpage.com to testify in cases involving the alleged abuse of minors a total of five times, and continues to respond to all valid law enforcement subpoenas.
disappointed that the AGs have determined to shift blame from criminal predators to a legal business operator in an apparent attempt to capitalize on political opportunity during the election season, the statement continues, in a tone that only
increases in exasperation. The Internet was born. The federal government enacted laws to regulate its use and to allocate responsibilities and immunities to web operators. Backpage.com follows those laws and it declines to censor an entire section of
free speech from its website.
Censorship will not create public safety nor will it rid the world of exploitation, the statement concludes.
Manitoba will follow Ontario's lead in demanding that the online service Craigslist stop carrying ads for sex-trade workers in Canada.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan, attending a meeting of Canadian attorneys general in Vancouver, said that he will
write a letter to Craigslist in the hope that they'll voluntarily pull those ads -- as the company did in the United States following pressure from state officials.
Ontario has led the way. We plan to follow along and we hope those ads
will also be removed from Canadian websites, said Swan, noting that the issue has come up in talks with his fellow provincial justice ministers.
Three Ontario cabinet ministers wrote to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster Sept. 14 to applaud the
service for agreeing to requests from attorneys general south of the border to shut down links to prostitution-related ads. The ministers noted, however, that the company had yet to do so in Canada.
Craigslist has said it has not removed the
erotic services content from its website in Canada because it's not been pressured to do so.