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.
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 .
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.