Craigslist Under Fire Again for Child Sexual Exploitation

The adult services section of Craigslist has long been one of the most efficient and effective methods of selling women and children for sex services, and the company has been under steady pressure for years including threat of legal action by 43 state’s prosecutors in May of 2009.

In response, Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster said that every ad posted to the new “adult services” category would be manually reviewed and that the section would be scrubbed of blatant sex-for-money ads and pornographic pictures.

Apparently the promise of manual reviews for every ad posted fell by the wayside, or the reviewers aren’t doing their job, or the lure of the projected $36 million in revenue Craigslist will earn from their adult services ads this year dampens enthusiasm for strict reviews. It took me less than 3 minutes to stumble across an image of male genitalia on Craigslist’s Adult “misc romance” page under the heading Mature Voyeur seeks Friendship with …..

And fresh charges leveled by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the Fair Fund say the site continues to be a hotbed for online prostitution, which often involves underage women forced into the sex trade.

“Craigslist is like the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking right now in this country,” said Andrea Powell of the anti-human trafficking group The FAIR Fund in an interview with CNN.

Recently, the Rebecca Project and Fair Fund sponsored a half-page letter to Craig Newmark, the site’s founder,  in the Washington Post, written by two young women who were forced into prostitution on Craigslist.

Even more heavy hitting is a CNN investigative report into Craigslist, which ran earlier this month titled Selling Sex? Confronting Craigslist.

In this video, CNN’s Amber Lyon posts a fake ad implying that she is a child prostitute to see if Craigslist would allow it to be posted. It was posted with no issues, and in only three hours Lyon had received 15 calls seeking sex with a minor, and said her phone rang off the hook for two days. The video also captures the lives of Craig’s List sex workers, and captures face to face footage where Lyon confronts Craig Newmark with questions to which he remains silent.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement last year that Craigslist’s announcement that it would manually review adult content was “a solid next step, not a solution,” and added: “Closing the erotic services section — a blatant Internet brothel — should lead to other blocking and screening measures, and set a model for other sites, if Craigslist keeps its word.” This summer Blumenthal joined the human rights groups calling for Craigslist to excise the “adult” section from its site.

Katherine Chon, Executive Director of the Polaris Project, wrote the following on Not For Sale, the campaign to end slavery in our lifetime:

In one recent case, two Chicago women were charged for selling girls as young as 14 years old on Craigslist. The girls were forced to have sex with 10-12 men per day, and the traffickers made tens of thousands of dollars. A Boston man and his niece were charged with plotting a child trafficking operation with teenagers as young as 13 by selling them on Craigslist to predators from Massachusetts to New York. These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, law enforcement efforts to fight trafficking nationwide are consistently reporting a spike in online Craigslist ads, and how sex trafficking has “moved online” lately.

The Craigslist for Washington, DC is one of the most active, with an average of 500 sexually oriented ads per day. As Chon points put:

A significant percentage of these ads on Craigslist do not advertise solely “legal escort services” as Craigslist may like to believe. Instead, a considerable percentage of the ads are a thinly veiled guise for one of the many faces of human trafficking that exists here in the United States. Although Craigslist may convince itself that it has created a beneficial online venue for advertising legal escorts, in effect, what it has done is create a fertile ground for traffickers to further their trade in human misery.

Additional articles regarding Craigslist and prostitution:

To be sure, Craigslist is not the only site where trafficking occurs. A quick check on the Seattle Times Personals pages, and the Washington Post’s personal pages shows ads equally explicit and suggestive of trafficking – as do many other personals sites.

NOTE: the Seattle Times/NWSource site also sells the email addresses and usernames of ‘interested parties’ to other “adult” sites ensuring you are spammed instantly.

And, a quick look on – a site specifically designed for sexual hook-ups lists up front the per/hour charge for the ‘girls’, and the ‘services’ they provide.

Stopping the trafficking of women and children is something we all have a stake in – and holding ALL web services accountable for the content on their sites is an important first step.



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