Craigslist Censors Adult Services Section

Classified ad site removes section after allegations of sex trafficking.

September 04, 2010, 2:12 PM

— -- Craigslist has self-censored the Adult Services section of its website as of late Friday night. The controversial section on the classified advertisement site's homepage has now been replaced with a black and white "CENSORED" box .

The move comes after attorneys general in 17 states stated in a joint letter last week that the site is aiding in illegal exploitation, prostitution and human trafficking. In the letter, Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster, CEO, and the site's attorney Edward Wes were asked to "immediately take down the Adult Services portion of craigslist."

"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," Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best said last week.

Craigslist has previously taken steps to reduce misuse and illegal activities. In November 2008 the site began requiring a phone number and small fee to place an advertisement in the Erotic Services section.

In May 2009, after coming under further fire from state and local law enforcement from around the country, Craigslist replaced the Erotic Services section of its regional sites with the new Adult Services section. All advertisements in this section, according to Craigslist, would be screened by the site's employees before being posted and cost $10, rather than the previous $5 cost of an Erotic Services advertisement.

State attorneys and law enforcement have remained unsatisfied with Craigslist's efforts to curb illegal activity.

"In our view, the company should take immediate action to end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads," last week's letter stated. "Because Craigslist cannot, or will not, adequately screen these ads, it should stop accepting them altogether and shut down the Adult Services section."

On August 18, six days before the letter was sent, Buckmaster stated the following on Craigslist's blog: "Craigslist is committed to being socially responsible, and when it comes to adult services ads, that includes aggressively combating violent crime and human rights violations, including human trafficking and the exploitation of minors. We are working intensively as I write this with experts and thought leaders at leading non-profits and among law enforcement on further substantive measures we can take."

The site was embroiled in a related controversy in 2009 when Phillip Markoff, a Boston medical student, was charged with the murder of Julissa Brisman, whom he allegedly met through Craigslist's Erotic Services section. In August Markoff was found dead from an apparent suicide in his cell in Boston's Nashua Street Jail.

The Erotic Services controversy was heightened further earlier this month when two young women identifying themselves as former child prostitutes going by "MC and AK" took out an advertisement in the Washington Post and claimed to have been sold via Craigslist. Site CEO Buckmaster responded, asking for further details on the arrest of their exploiters and reiterating the site's stance on the subject.

"We work with law enforcement to bring to justice any criminals foolish enough to incriminate themselves by misusing our site, and want to make sure everything possible has been done in your cases," Buckmaster wrote. "Even politicians looking to advance their careers by publicly criticizing us grudgingly admit (when pressed) that we have made giant strides in fighting trafficking and child exploitation."

Buckmaster entered a war or words with the media after CNN's Amber Lyon confronted Newmark, the site's namesake, about the controversy after he made a speech about supporting veterans.

"[Lyon] set CNN's ethical code aside, sidestepped company channels in favor of ambushing our semi-retired founder, complete with a misleading 'set up' for your surprise questions," Buckmaster wrote on Craigslist's blog.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events