Just recently, a 26-year-old District of Columbia man named Brandon Petty pleaded guilty in connection with two sexual assaults of women he met through Craigslist. Evidence suggests that the first incident took place on Sept. 8, 2009, in which he grabbed the victim by the hair, placed a knife to her throat and demanded money. A similar situation occurred on April 21, 2010. He now faces up to 30 years in prison.
"I do think it's fair to call it both trafficking and sexual exploitation," said Malika Saada Saar, executive director and founder of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a non-profit assisting the two young women. "I think in the same way that we can't sell crack cocaine over Craigslist, we can't allow prostitution to happen over Craigslist."
Attorneys general from 39 states are currently monitoring adult postings on Craigslist for what they say is blatant prostitution.
ABC News reached Craigslist founder Craig Newmark by telephone. He declined comment, referring us instead to the company CEO Jim Buckmaster. Buckmaster could not be reached for an interview.
In a response posted yesterday morning to the Craigslist blog, "Jim," believed to be company CEO Jim Buckmaster, said the company is dedicated to improving preventative measures to ensure the safety of potential sex trafficking victims. Addressed to both AK and MC, the note went on to say that the online community was keen on doing everything possible to assist with their cases.
"We work with law enforcement to bring to justice any criminals foolish enough to incriminate themselves by misusing our site," read the entry. "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."
But, the post said that "criminal misuse of the site is quite rare," considering the fact that more than 50 million Americans use Craigslist. It also said that the site is "one of the few bright spots" when it comes to fighting against child exploitation, adding that the company manually screens each adult services advertisement to preclude ads for prostitution. The company also requires a phone number with such a post, and created a special victim search interface for law enforcement.
The company reportedly collects $10 to $15 for every adult ad, bringing in an estimated $36 million a year.
"We are not content however," concluded the entry, "and are committed to making further progress."
Officials with the Rebecca Project said they were "very disappointed" by the site's response, particularly because they consider the website to play a major role in the sex trafficking industry that affects as many as 300,000 American children each year.
"Craig, where is your outrage that your site is being used to commit such horrible crimes?" the group asked in a letter to Newmark. "We are asking you to take responsiblity, ownership and adequate action for the website that bears your name."