Seventeen State attorneys general Tell Craigslist to Drop Adult Services

I blogged last week about the pressure that is once again mounting against Craigslistby advocates against human trafficking and law enforcement officers – see Craigslist Under Fire Again for Child Sexual Exploitation – now the stakes have been raised further.

Craigslist’s failure to curb the trafficking and exploitation of women and children through their ‘adult services’ section has rekindled the wrath of attorneys general in 17 states – including Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia..

“Only Craigslist has the power to stop these ads before they are even published,” Kansas Attorney General Steve Six said in a statement Tuesday. “Sadly, they are completely unwilling to do so.”

Pressure against Craigslist first came to a head in 2008 when the service bowed to pressure from 40 state attorneys general to take measures against the blatant human trafficking and sex trade promoted on the site.

At that time, Craigslist changed their policies to require people wanting to post ads in their erotic services section to provide a working phone number and pay a fee for placing an ad; efforts the company believed would minimize the illegal activity on the site.

Under continued pressure, the company renamed their ‘erotic-services’ section to ‘adult services’ in May of 2009, and simultaneously stated they would shift to a manual screening process for ads in this category to ensure that postings would be reviewed before publishing.

Now, state officials say Craigslist is still not doing enough to stop the trafficking ads from appearing.  “Only Craigslist has the power to stop these ads before they are even published,” said Kansas Attorney General Steve Six said in a statement earlier this week. “Sadly, they are completely unwilling to do so.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal subpoenaed Craigslist in May, asking the Web site to provide proof it was holding up its promise to help stop ads for prostitution. Craigslist should provide its evidence in a few weeks, said a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley released a separate letter Tuesday that was sent to Craigslist officials and also called for the removal of adult services.You should continue to build on your success in connecting users to each other and providing a forum for the exchange of legal goods and services,” she said Tuesday.

Dropping their adult services section would be a financial blow to Craigslist; this year alone the projected revenue from adult ads is estimated to be $36 million. Surely increasing measures to filter out – and report – ads offering victims of human trafficking and the sex trade is a more palatable option. Time will tell if they take it.



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