After a group of state attorneys general said there wasn’t enough protection on the site, Craigslist has finally given up the legal fight over erotic ads posted on it’s website. Shutting down its adult services section, Craigslist has instead replaced the section with a black bar entitled, “censored.” The fear of the state attorney generals was that the adult services section on Craigslist helped promote potentially illegal ads that advocated prostitution. It has not been determined if this closure is permanent and the censorship seems to only be applicable to those ads in the United States.
The adult services section solicited renewed scrutiny after the suicide of an inmate occurred last month. This particular inmate, a former medical student, was awaiting trial for the murder of a masseuse he had met through Craigslist. Many critics feel that the website’s adult section, which features ads for anything from a night at the movies to a personal massage, crosses the line into the vague area of prostitution.
In May, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster responded in a blog posting that many of the company’s ads were no worse then ads seen in Village Voice Media, an alternative newspaper chain. He cited a suggestive ad that included the phrase, “anything goes $90.”
Although the website has been caught before fighting vague legal battles regarding the company’s responsibility for ads, Craigslist has attempted to keep inappropriate activity off its site by screening its ads thoroughly. After increasing pressure from forty state attorneys general in 2008, Craigslist began requiring a working phone number and a fee for placing ads in the adult services section. Finally, Craigslist adopted a manual screening process in which all postings are reviewed before being published on the site.
Regardless of Craigslist compliances with the law, many state officials still feel like the site is not doing enough to stop illegal ads from showing up online. The company has yet to respond to these accusations. Others, like Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that he welcomed the change from Craigslist and verified their official policy to press onward with the censorship. Blumenthal was one of the seventeen attorneys general who pressed Craigslist to change.
Many authorities pushed for the Craigslist censorship due to the recent case of twenty-four year old Philip Markoff, the medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met on Craigslist. Some claim if Craigslist didn’t have the adult services sections, atrocities like the case of Markoff would have never occurred.
Others believe that even if Craigslist shut down its adult services section, this would only provoke viewers to seek pornographic material elsewhere. The business will most likely shift to other adult based sites outside of the United States. Many, like Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart of Illinois were skeptical of the change. Dart had filed a lawsuit against Craigslist last year. In a recent statement, Dart says, “I hope they finally realized they had to do something to stop their website from being used to destroy the lives of so many abused young girls and women.”