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IPFS News Link • Media: Internet

Censored! Craigslist Adult Services Blocked in U.S.

The “adult services” listing on Craiglist was removed late Friday from its U.S.-based sites and replaced with the word “censored.”

Craigslist did not announce the move and its blog was not updated as of Saturday morning. Craigslist did not immediately respond to e-mail and voice mail messages seeking comment. Adult services listings continue to be available outside the United States.

The change comes as the service faces growing pressure in the U.S. over sex services advertised on its classifieds network, as well as allegations that it abets human sex trafficking. While most of the listings on Craigslist are free, it charges $10 to post ads in its adult services section. It also charges fees in a handful of other areas, including New York apartment rentals.

Police routinely conduct prostitution sting operations using its listings, as have some media outlets such as CNN, which has made it something of a mission to highlight the issue (see below). has also reported on the problem.

The stakes were raised again last week when Craigslist received a letter from 17 state attorneys general demanding the company immediately shut down its adult services listing, citing the case of two girls who said last month that they were trafficked for sex through the site. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a democrat and a signee of last month’s letter, said in a statement Saturday he welcomed Craigslist’s apparent decision to close the section and said he was seeking to verify the site’s official policy going forward.

If Craigslist has bowed to public pressure, that would signal a major shift in the company’s strategy.

According to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, Craigslist’s adult services section accounts for 30 percent of its overall revenue — a projected $36.6 million in 2010 out of $122 million. More than half the company’s revenue comes from recruitment advertising and about 17 percent (almost $21 million) comes from apartment ads in New York City, the AIM Group estimates.

Craigslist has made numerous changes to its sex listings over the years to accommodate critics, changing its sex listings label from “erotic services” to “adult services,” imposing rules about the types of ads that can appear, and manually filtering ads using attorneys. But it has also fiercely defended its overall practices as ethical, and criticized censorship as a useless and hypocritical dodge.

When Craigslist was hit with a lawsuit by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in 2009, it struck back with a preemptive lawsuit of its own and won. In a blog post last month, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster explained the company’s filtering policies in detail, pointing out its lawyers had rejected some 700,000 inappropriate ads to date, and suggested its methods could offer a model for the entire industry. He has also used the company’s blog to blast critics, most recently an “ambush” CNN video interview of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

Craiglist has a point: Given other sites on the web (and in print) serve the same types of ads without the same level of scrutiny, it seems politicians are making the pioneering, 15-year-old service an opportunistic scapegoat. Internet services may accelerate and exacerbate some social problems like prostitution, but they rarely cause them. The root of these issues — and their solutions — lie in the realm of public policy, not web sites and ham-handed web site filtering.

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2 Comments in Response to

Comment by Anonymous
Entered on:

CENSORED!  Velcome to za new Amerika.

Comment by Jet Lacey
Entered on:

Oh no!  How ever am I going to get a hooker now?  Oh yeah, there's still