Craigslist under fire (again) for 'adult services' ads

Popular classified ads site in hot water over alleged prostitution ads

Craigslist is back in the hot seat over the Adult Services category on its popular classified advertising site.

On Tuesday, the attorneys general from 17 states wrote an open letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster calling on him to "immediately" remove the Adult Services category from the Web site. They argued that removing the category would protect women and children who are often "victimized" because of ads for prostitution that they allege run on the site.

"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," wrote the state AGs. "Because Craigslist cannot, or will not, adequately screen these ads, it should stop accepting them altogether and shut down the Adult Services section."

Craigslist, which is known for running classified advertisements for everything from toasters to treadmills, would not respond to questions about whether executives are considering removing the Adult Services category.

"We strongly support the Attorneys General desire to end trafficking in children and women, through the Internet or by any other means," the company said in a statement to Computerworld. "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."

This isn't Craigslist's first time dealing with legal pressure to ensure prostitution ads aren't running on its Web site.

In May 2009, the site relented to growing pressure to remove the Erotic Services category from its site. When the Craigslist team took down the Erotic Services category, it replaced it with Adult Services. Buckmaster vowed at the time that every ad in Adult Services would be manually reviewed before it appeared on the Web site.

The Erotic Services category on Craigslist was under heavy fire last year after Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was arrested and for allegedly murdering one woman and kidnapping and assaulting another after meeting both through erotic services ads on Craigslist.

Later, Markoff also was charged with assault and weapons charges for allegedly using a gun to threaten a woman in a Rhode Island hotel on April 16, 2009. The woman told police that she had met her assailant through an ad on Craigslist.

Earlier this month, Markoff killed himself in a Boston jail cell. He had been scheduled to go to trial in March 2011.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)

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