Sunday, September 5, 2010

Adult Services Section Is Shut Down On Craigslist

(Sept. 4) – Craigslist, the classified ads website, took down its "adult services" section after criticism that it enabled prostitution.

The adult services section, which previously contained solicitations for sex, has been replaced on the Craigslist homepage with a sign saying "censored."

The section is still open for people browsing the Web from outside the United States, CNN reported.

Last week, attorneys general in 17 states wrote an open letter to the website's founder, Craig Newmark, and CEO Jim Buckmaster, urging them to permanently close the section.

"Ads for prostitution -- including ads trafficking children -- are rampant," the letter said, according to CNN.

Craigslist did not immediately respond to e-mails from AOL News seeking comment.

The adult services section has been a huge money-spinner for the classified site, even in a sluggish economy.

According to an April report by media consultancy the AIM Group, Craigslist's adult services section accounts for 30 percent of the site's total revenue -- an estimated $36.6 million in 2010.

The website "turns so much profit that it's a gold mine for its owners," Peter Zollman, founder of the AIM group, said on the company's website.

Still, Craigslist had faced biting criticism from a range of sources for openly advertising sexual services on an easily accessible site that is commonly used to rent out bedrooms and sell old furniture.

Craigslist Shuts Down It's Adult Services Section
Frank Franklin II, AP
Attorneys general in 17 states recently wrote an open letter to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, above, and CEO Jim Buckmaster, urging them to take down the "adult services" section.

The attorneys general highlighted a letter that appeared in the Washington Post in which two girls claimed that they were sold for sex on Craigslist.

Rep. Jackie Speier set up a House Judiciary Committee hearing to look at how websites such as Craigslist are used to "facilitate criminal activity," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Speier claimed she had met with a minor who was pimped via Craigslist and forced to have sex as many as 10 times a night.

"It's a crime against these young women," Speier said.

Craigslist describes itself as having a "relatively non-commercial nature, public service mission, and non-corporate culture." Still, the company is a for-profit and has fought back against claims that it facilitates exploitation.

Founder Craig Newmark highlighted that the site has 50 million users, and that the crime rate was "very low."

"We just don't tolerate (illegal services)," Newmark told True/Slant in April.

Buckmaster, the company's CEO, also wrote a blog posting in which he said he hoped that the people behind the trafficking of the girls mentioned in the Washington Post were "behind bars."

Sympathy for Craigslist regarding the closure of its adult services seems muted. In a comment on an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, one poster dismissed their "self-righteous attitude."

"Whenever somebody dares to question them about anything they do, they get defensive and spout off about how virtuous they are," the commenter wrote. Craigslist "provides thieves and scammers with an online home, and enables a lot of unsavory activities."

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