Attorneys General Want Craigslist 'Adult Services' Shut Down

Attorneys General Want Craigslist 'Adult Services' Shut Down
Attorneys general want Craigslist's "adult services" section shut down.

Seventeen attorneys general wrote an open letter to Craigslist on Tuesday, requesting that the "adult services" portion of Craigslist be taken down immediately. In the letter, the attorneys general explained that the "increasingly sharp public criticism of Craigslist's Adult Services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution -- including ads trafficking children -- are rampant on it." The letter went on to state that, because Craigslist "cannot, or will not" screen the ads, the online ad service should stop accepting such ads altogether.

The letter goes on to give examples of Craigslist "adult services" ads gone wrong--including two girls who claimed they were trafficked over Craigslist wrote a letter in July 2010 asking Craigslist to take the section down. Craigslist responded to this letter (published openly, in a newspaper) with a blog post in which they asked for police reports and other evidence. The attorneys' general letter suggests this is an example of how Craigslist is "blames the victims" and that Craigslist lives in an "imagined utopia" where "every Adult Services advertisement is harmless until proven otherwise."

Another example of an "adult services" ad-gone-wrong given in the letter is that of a fictional prostitution ad posted by a CNN correspondent. The fictional ad--which was very explicitly advertising sex for money--garnered 15 calls in a three-hour period.

The letter acknowledges that taking down the "adult services" section of the site will undoubtedly result in a loss of revenue for Craigslist. However, the letter argues that "no amount of money...can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist."

The 17 attorneys general who signed the letter are from the states Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

This is not (at all) the first time Craigslist's services section has been criticized--in May 2009, Cook County of South Carolina filed a lawsuit against Craigslist, charging the website with "facilitating prostitution." This lawsuit occurred right after Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was arrested for allegedly murdering a woman (and kidnapping and assaulting a second) after finding both of them on Craigslist. Dubbed the "Craigslist Killer," Markoff committed suicide in jail just a week ago.

The website removed the "erotic services" section a week after the lawsuit, and set up a new category: the "adult services" section, which was to be used by legal adult service providers. Craigslist said that postings to the new section would be manually reviewed.

While it might seem that the attorneys general are being a little too hard on Craigslist, it should be noted that this is not all smoke and lack-of-police-report mirrors--in late May 2009, an alleged prostitution ring called Room Service Entertainment was busted--a ring which reportedly operated exclusively on Craigslist.

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