Craigslist Clean-Up: Is it Really Working?

Photo: Craigslist Clean-Up: Is it Really Working? Conn. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal: Were Not Going Away

It's been nearly a month since Craigslist promised improvements to clean the Web site of prostitution and graphic images, and while attorney general watchdogs report some progress it still takes just seconds to find illegal activities advertised on the site.

ABCNews.com looked at advertisements in eight cities and almost immediately found posts that were both lewd and illegal in markets that included Hartford, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Salt Lake City and Columbia, S.C.

The ads have ranged from a lusty "Hey fellaz" with hourly rates to raunchy photos, and even an offer to trade drugs for sex.

VIDEO: Craigslist Founder Doesnt Plan to Change Web Site
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"It's very much a continuing battle," Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told ABCNews.com. "So far, Craigslist has failed to do enough and that's why we're asking the questions."

Craigslist, which told ABCNews.com that it was being unfairly targeted, was hit with a fresh round of questions on May 26 from the attorneys general of seven states, requesting more information about the site's screening process and criteria for banning certain posts among other details.

The Web site has yet to respond to the AGs' letter sent to Craigslist attorney Edward Wes, but Blumenthal said further action would be determined, in part, by the answers to those questions.

Pressure began mounting on Craigslist last year as complaints grew about the racy posts and images that proliferated among its popular personal ads. That prompted a promise by Craigslist in November to make more of an effort to combat online prostitution, including raising the fee for posting ads in the now-defunct "erotic services" category from $5 to $10.

Public outrage grew, however, in the wake of a string of high-profile crimes linked to Craigslist.

The site's operators agreed to a number of changes to cut down on illegal activity, including removing graphic sexual images and remioving its "erotic services" category and replacing it with an "adult services" section to help eliminate blatant ads for prostitution or other crimes.

Since May, Blumenthal said he has noticed that most of the Connecticut ads containing pornographic images are gone and the number of prostitution ads have diminished and are less explicit.

The Illinois Attorney General's office reports similar findings, but Cara Smith, deputy chief of staff to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said ads the state considers illegal still abound.

"We're still concerned about what Craigslist believes illegal adult service is," she said,

Smith said illegal ads include hourly rates with "no even arguable service being offered." Prostitution ads also often include coded phone numbers that use letters or symbols in place of numbers.

"While it may seem minor, obstructing the phone number, to us, is a red flag," she said, because it indicates the poster's attempt to circumvent law enforcement search engines.

A Look at Online Prostitution

When it comes to prostitution ads on Craigslist, little but the women's faces change from city to city.

While some cities, such as New York, were better at including the words "massage" or "body works" to lend an air of legality, posters in other large cities didn't even bother.

A woman in Chicago, like many others, was so bold as to include her hourly rates in the post, carefully dancing around what exactly that money would pay for.

"Cute In the Face …

Slim In the Waist…

A Girl you'll Love to Date…"

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