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Official: Craigslist to replace 'blatant Internet brothel'

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  • NEW: CEO says company "looking for constructive criticism"
  • Craigslist will replace its controversial "erotic services" listings with a new section
  • Sex-related ads will be checked by Craigslist employees before posting
  • Connecticut attorney general: Craigslist must shut down "online red-light district"
By Alan Duke
CNN
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(CNN) -- Craigslist will replace its controversial online "erotic services" listings with a section where ads are individually checked by Craigslist employees before they are posted, according to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Craigslist will replace its "erotic services" listings with ads that are screened by the site's employees.

Craigslist will replace its "erotic services" listings with ads that are screened by the site's employees.

The popular classified-ad Web site, which Blumenthal called "a blatant Internet brothel," has been accused by law enforcement officials across the United States of promoting prostitution through its erotic ads.

"Craigslist is heeding our clear call for conscience and common sense, sending a strong signal that Internet sites must police themselves to protect others," Blumenthal said.

Craigslist representatives met in New York last week with Blumenthal and the attorneys general of Missouri and Illinois, all of whom asked the company to shut down its "erotic services" sections in their states.

Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart called Craigslist "the single largest source of prostitution in the nation."

"As head of the multistate attorney general task force," Blumenthal said, "I was informed by Craigslist late last night that it will eliminate the 'erotic services' section within seven days, create a new section called 'adult services' and manually review every ad posted there to bar flagrant prostitution and pornography." Listen to Blumenthal talk to CNN Radio about the change »

"So far, it looks like we've struck the right balance, and most of the feedback we're getting right now is positive," Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told CNN's "American Morning."

He said his company does not view the law enforcement community's involvement as pressure.

"We're looking for constructive criticism, and certainly we've been getting plenty of that," Buckmaster said.

Craigslist executives released a statement Wednesday confirming the change, which it said will take place after current ads expire in seven days.

New ads in the "adult services" section "will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers," the company said.

"Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with Craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use," it said. Advertisers will pay a $10 fee for each new ad, it said.

Blumenthal said state agencies will keep a close eye on the Web site and others "to make sure prostitution and pornography do not migrate and move elsewhere."

"We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from 'erotic' to 'adult' and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography," he said.

Craiglist CEO speaks
Craiglist CEO Jim Buckmaster talks to CNN's John Roberts Thursday morning.
6 a.m. ET

"Our continuing investigation will assure that these steps are substance, not just spin, and that Craigslist really shuts down its open online red-light district."

Craigslist drew attention recently after a 23-year-old medical student was charged in the death of a masseuse in a Boston, Massachusetts, hotel room and in a hotel assault in Rhode Island. Police have said it appeared that the attacker in both cases had responded to the victims' Craigslist ads.

The Craigslist statement said ads on its site have been associated with "far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole."

It suggested that the online ads are safer because of verification measures, community monitoring, the electronic trail left by those using the site and Craigslist's cooperation with investigators.

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In November, Craigslist entered into an agreement with more than 40 attorneys general and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to add safeguards to combat unlawful activity and improve public safety.

As part of the reforms, Craigslist agreed to implement credit card verification, assess a fee and require a phone number from people posting "erotic services."

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