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Adult services censored on Craigslist

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Craigslist website has been under fire for allegations that it promotes prostitution.
The Craigslist website has been under fire for allegations that it promotes prostitution.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Connecticut attorney general praises action
  • The word "censored" replaces the section where adult services used to be
  • The website has been accused of promoting prostitution in its adult services section
  • Seventeen attorneys general urge Craigslist to replace the section

(CNN) -- Online classified service Craigslist's decision to censor its adult services section could be a model for other websites, a leader in the fight against prostitution ads said Saturday.

"This step is very much in the right direction," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who spearheaded a letter from 17 attorneys general who recently banded together to urge Craigslist to discontinue its adult services section.

The embattled website has been under fire for allegations that it promotes prostitution.

"These prostitution ads enable human trafficking and assaults on women," said Blumenthal. "They are flagrant and rampant. Craigslist has lacked the wherewithal or will to effectively screen them out."

The section that usually reads "adult services" on Craigslist was replaced by the word "censored."

It was not immediately clear whether Craigslist removed the adult services and replaced them with the "censored" section, which had a link that was not active. But for users who accessed the account outside the U.S., the erotic services link was still active.

Craigslist representatives told CNN on Saturday that they will release a statement at a later time.

"The message here is put people over profits," said Blumenthal, who is running for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut as a Democrat. He said officials will continue monitoring Craigslist and other websites for such content.

"The increasingly sharp public criticism of Craigslist's Adult Services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution -- including ads trafficking children -- are rampant on it," the attorneys general had said in an Aug. 24 letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster and Founder Craig Newmark.

A Craigslist spokeswoman said at the time that the site agreed with at least some of the letter.

Video: Adult services censored
Video: Craigslist ends 'adult services' section
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"We strongly support the attorneys general desire to end trafficking in children and women, through the Internet or by any other means," said Susan MacTavish Best, who handles press inquiries for 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, and to combat such crimes wherever they appear, online or offline."

In their letter, the attorneys general highlighted an open letter, which appeared as a Washington Post ad, in which two girls said they were sold for sex on Craigslist.

When the ad came out, Buckmaster wrote a blog post in response that said, "Craigslist is anxious to know that the perpetrators in these girls' cases are behind bars."

The letter also highlighted a report in May by CNN's Amber Lyon, who posted a fake ad for a girl's services in the adult section. She received 15 calls soliciting sex in three hours.

Earlier this month, Lyon interviewed a woman named "Jessica" who sells sex on Craigslist. The woman said a Craigslist ad was "the fastest, quickest way you're for sure going to see somebody that day."

In a later blog post, Buckmaster said Craigslist implemented manual screening of adult services ads in May 2009. "Since that time, before being posted each individual ad is reviewed by an attorney," the post said.

He said the attorneys are trained to enforce Craigslist's posting guidelines, "which are stricter than those typically used by yellow pages, newspapers, or any other company that we are aware of."

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia made the request a week after accused "Craigslist killer" Philip Markoff committed suicide in jail.

Markoff was charged with the April 2009 killing of Julissa Brisman. Boston Police said that Brisman, a model, advertised as a masseuse on Craigslist, and Markoff might have met her through the website.

In 2008, under pressure from state prosecutors, the website raised the fees for posting adult services ads. In 2009, it started donating portions of the money generated by adult ads to charity.

A CNN investigation of Craigslist's adult services section, which replaced "erotic services ads" two years ago, counted more than 7,000 ads in a single day. Many offered thinly veiled "services" for anything from $50 for a half-hour to $400 an hour.

CNN's Deborah Doft and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.

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