Attorneys general call for Craigslist to get rid of adult services ads

(CNN) -- Attorneys general in 17 states have banded together to call on Craigslist, the online classified ad website, to discontinue its adult services section.

 

"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 attorneys general said in a Tuesday letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster and founder Craig Newmark.

 

The letter continued: "We recognize that Craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads. No amount of money, however, 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."

 

A Craigslist spokeswoman said Wednesday that the site agreed with at least some of the letter.

 

"We strongly support the attorneys general desire to end trafficking in children and women, through the Internet or by any other means," Susan MacTavish Best, who handles media inquiries for Craigslist, told CNN Wednesday.

 

"We hope to work closely with them, as we are with experts at nonprofits and in law enforcement, to prevent misuse of our site in facilitation of trafficking, and to combat such crimes wherever they appear, online or offline."

 

In their letter, the attorneys general highlighted an open letter, which appeared as a Washington Post ad, in which two girls said they were sold for sex on Craigslist.

 

When the ad came out, Buckmaster wrote a blog post in response that said, "Craigslist is anxious to know that the perpetrators in these girls' cases are behind bars."

 

The letter also highlighted a report in May by CNN's Amber Lyon, who posted a fake ad in the adult section. She received 15 calls soliciting sex in three hours.

 

Earlier this month, Lyon interviewed a woman named "Jessica" who sells sex on Craigslist. She told Lyon a Craigslist ad was "the fastest, quickest way you're for sure going to see somebody that day."

 

In a later blog, Buckmaster said Craigslist implemented manual screening of adult services ads in May 2009. "Since that time, before being posted each individual ad is reviewed by an attorney." He said the attorneys are trained to enforce Craigslist's posting guidelines, "which are stricter than those typically used by yellow pages, newspapers, or any other company that we are aware of."

 

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia made the request a week after accused "Craigslist killer" Philip Markoff committed suicide in jail.

 

Markoff was charged with the April 2009 killing of Julissa Brisman. Boston Police said that Brisman, a model, advertised as a masseuse on Craigslist, and Markoff might have met her through the website.

 

In 2008, under pressure from state prosecutors, the website raised the fees for posting adult services ads. In 2009, it started donating portions of the money generated by adult ads to charity.

 

A CNN investigation of Craigslist's "adult services" section, which replaced "erotic services ads" two years ago, counted more than 7,000 ads in a single day. Many offered thinly veiled "services" for anything from $50 for a half hour to $400 an hour.

 

Newmark has defended his site, saying it is doing more than any other site that hosts adult ads to help filter out underage prostitutes and report them to police. Best, the Craigslist spokeswoman, said that fewer than one ad in 10,000 meets the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's guidelines for anti-trafficking action.

 

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

 

(To read original article, visit this CNN link.)

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