Craigslist discontinues erotic services advertisements

The category will be removed from all Craigslist's U.S. sites

Online-classifieds site Craigslist said on Wednesday that it will remove the "erotic services" category of advertisements from its U.S. Web site in a week, after the site was criticized by law enforcement agencies as providing a forum for prostitution and other illegal activities.

Postings to the erotic services category will not be accepted from Wednesday, the site said on its blog.

Craigslist has also set up, starting Wednesday, a new category, called "adult services", on its U.S. web sites, which will be open for postings by legal adult service providers.

Postings to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with Craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use. New postings will cost US$10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5, Craigslist said.

The decision was criticized by New York's attorney general Andrew Cuomo who said he suspects the action will prove to be half-baked. The office of the attorney general informed Craigslist some weeks ago of an impending criminal case that implicated its Web site.

The site has also been under pressure from the Attorney General for South Carolina, Henry McMaster, who wrote Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster earlier this month to tell him Craigslist has not installed sufficient safeguards to prohibit the Internet site from being used as a vehicle to advertise or solicit prostitution. The unrestricted manner in which graphic pornographic pictures are posted and displayed was also of concern, the letter said.

McMaster warned that Craigslist may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution if categories in the South Carolina section of the site that promote prostitution and pornography are not permanently removed on or before the close of business on May 15.

Craigslist claimed in its blog that the use of Craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crimes than print classifieds, because of a combination of measures including filtering and community moderation.

The current controversy over the "erotic services" section of Craigslist was kicked-off by an incident in Boston where a man is alleged to have used the section to meet women, one of whom was abducted and one of whom was murdered.

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