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Craigslist: Adult services are gone for good

Auction site mum on whether section will be removed from international sites

Online auction site Craigslist has revealed it will permanently remove adult services from its online classified ads in the US.

Last month, two sex workers posted an open letter to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in the Washington Post claiming the site wrecked their lives and accused it "facilitating trafficking" through its adult services section.

Following pressue from law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups and the US government, the site temporarily closed its adult services section. However, Craigslist's lawyers told a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on child sex trafficking this week that it has no plans to reopen its US adult services section.

William Clinton Powell, the director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist, said that his company had "no intention to bring the category back" and "money is not a consideration."  Although, Craigslist skirted the issue of whether it would yield to calls by advocacy groups to stop running erotic services ads that appear on international versions of the site.

At the end of August a group of 17 Attorneys General requested, in an open letter, that Craigslist disable the adult services section of its site immediately. The letter explained that the "increasingly sharp public criticism" of the adult services section "reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution - including ads trafficking children - are rampant on it."

The letter also gave examples of how adult services ads on Craigslist were allegedly tied to sex crimes and cited the Washington Post letter. Craigslist responded with a request evidence of the alleged trafficking authorities.

Earlier this month Craigslist complied with lawmaker requests and put a black bar with the word "censored" over the section of the site labelled adult services. The move raised the question of free speech and the internet - and whether or not Congress has the right to censor internet.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Craigslist decision to 'censor' its Adult Services section is an unfortunate one. The EFF points out that the Attorneys General basically bullied Craigslist into making such a decision, as "over the past two years, Craigslist repeatedly offered to go far above and beyond their legal obligations to work with law enforcement officials", and "the AGs have inevitably rewarded completely voluntary, non-mandatory offers of cooperation from Craigslist with further demands and insults".

Of course, shutting down Craigslist's Adult Services section for good is unlikely to fix all the sex trafficking issues like that. As Elizabeth McDougall, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP (the law firm representing Craigslist), says, the ads will just "migrate to less socially responsible sites" that won't co-operate with law enforcement.

See also: Craigslist used in search for assassin

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