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In the aftermath of the accused Craigslist killer’s suicide, attorneys general from 18 states are pressuring the popular website to remove its listings for "adult services", arguing that the website’s adminstrators are incapable of blocking illegal ads, including prostitution and child trafficking.

The attorneys general from Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia all signed a joint letter urging Craigslist to remove the section. Site administrators removed the "erotic services" section from the website after Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was accused of fatally shooting a masseuse he met on Craigslist.

Prior to the removal of the "erotic services" section in response to the Craigslist killer case, in November 2008, Craigslist began requiring posters to pay a fee and provide a working phone number before posting an erotic ad. In addition, in May 2009 Craigslist renamed the erotic services section to "adult services" and pledged to implement a screening process to review erotic ads before they were posted to the site. However, the attorneys general are particularly concerned that the website’s administrators are not upholding their promises. In fact, in July 2010 two young girls wrote an open letter to company officials reporting that they were trafficked for sex through Craigslist. The attorneys general recognize that Craigslist stands to lose tremendous profit in eliminating the "adult services" section from the website, but wrote in their letter that they hope that the company realizes the cost of illegal prostitution and the suffering of women and children that are sexually trafficked.


  1. Gravatar for Brandon West

    So David, here is the question - what do you think about the opinion of the Attorneys General from the 18 states? Are they targeting a single instance of a larger problem, which will have an immeasurable impact on the issue at hand (sex for sale) for what gain (I smell political)? At it's core, craigslist is nothing more than an classified site that happens to be 'printed' on the interwebs. Craigs' isn't the only site like this - it just happens to be the largest.

    I've read a bit of commentary that all says the same thing - AG's are asking for Craigs to remove a section of their site. But I've yet to see point out that the AG's are attacking but a single medium. What kind of implications does this have for other businesses that have a subset that doesn't agree with the morals/ethics/politics of lawmakers?

    Is this really about Craigs or something much much bigger?

  2. Brandon - You've keyed in on a major issue with constitutional implications. Should Craigslist be accountable for what other people post on that site? For that matter, should we be held responsible for the comments of others on our website? I don't think so.

    With regard to Craigslist, the underlying conduct (prostitution and/or solicitation) is already illegal. If someone walks into a McDonald's and solicits another patron, should McDonald's be held legally accountable? I say no. What if an employee overhears the conversation? I still say no, but I understand how people can disagree with me.

    What it boils down to is whether there should be a legal responsibility for a private entity (i.e., not a state actor) to limit or report the communications of someone else. I don't think there should be, except in a few instances involving people in positions of trust (teachers, health care providers, etc.). If Craigslist wants to voluntarily turn that information over to authorities or remove offending posts, it can do so.

    There is a separate issue here - the site administrators were supposedly screening the posts. To the extent they are not keeping their promise, they should be held accountable in some way.

    The Attorneys General are probably hoping to bring attention to this issue. That they can score political points at the same time is a bonus.

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