Not 'Adult Services,' But Apparent Prostitution Ads Still on Craigslist

Ads seeking cash for sexual and erotic services still found across site.

September 5, 2010, 7:08 PM

Sept. 5, 2010 -- Craigslist may have self-censored the Adult Services section of its U.S. websites as of late Friday night, but ads hinting at and seeking prostitution and offering erotic massages are still appearing in a different section on the online bulletin boards across the country.

Ads alluding to exchanges of cash for sexual services and seeking massage clients are still showing up in Casual Encounters section of Craigslist's websites in New York, Las Vegas and other parts of the country. today discovered several ads across a number of regional Craigslist sites that explicitly mention monetary exchange for sexual favors, seek "fun time$," offer a massage from an "attractive independent female" or seek a "mutually beneficial" meeting.

One of the ads was flagged by other Craigslist users after found it this afternoon.

Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment late today.

The controversial Adult Services section on the classified advertisement site's homepage was replaced on Friday with a black and white "CENSORED" box that does not link, just days after a group of state attorneys general had released a statement that they believed the section should be eliminated.

In the statement, attorneys general in 17 states said the site was aiding in illegal exploitation, prostitution and human trafficking.

In the letter, the state officials asked Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, CEO Jim Buckmaster and the site's attorney, Edward Wes, 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 made no statement since the change to the site, so it is not clear whether the Adult Services section is being removed permanently.

In the past, Craigslist has maintained that the Adult Services section was for legitimate adult services, not prostitution.

Craigslist said that it tried to monitor the postings on the page, and all ads posted there required vetting and approval.

While the Adult Services section, which reportedly brings in $45 million per year, was removed from the U.S. sites, as early as this afternoon an ad was found on Toronto's Craigslist site from "busty and sexy," saying "when you come over to my place, you are going to have the good time of your life."

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.

But many prosecutors and police said the changes were not enough to keep ads off the website that promoted 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 Aug. 18, six days before the letter was sent, Buckmaster said 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 Philip Markoff, a Boston University 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 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.

Buckmaster responded by 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."

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