Craigslist Sued Over ‘Adult’ Postings

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Craigslist is under fire … again. Connecticut Attorney General William Blumenthal issued a subpoena yesterday to investigate whether or not the Web site is fulfilling an earlier promise to remove prostitution ads from its boards.

Blumenthal is leading a coalition of 39 states who also have a problem with the ads that appear in the site’s “Adult Services” section. The Attorney General and Co. feel the Web site continues to promote prostitution and, even, human trafficking.

This subpoena is a repeat of what Craigslist went through last year when Illinois’ Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart filed a lawsuit that accused the site of knowingly promoting prostitution.

“Craigslist is the single largest source of prostitution in the nation," Dart told CNN in 2009. "Missing children, runaways, abused women and women trafficked in from foreign countries are routinely forced to have sex with strangers because they're being pimped on craigslist."

Dart’s lawsuit, in conjunction with the emergence of Philip Markoff, the accused "Craigslist Killer," who allegedly found victims from posted advertisements on the site, forced the site to succumb to legal pressure and Craigslist made a verbal agreement to impose restrictions on their posts.

Their response included changing the bulletin board’s name to “Adult Services” and agreeing to donate the profits collected when the section was called “Erotic Services” to charity. The site also promised to issue a manual review process when accepting ads for the newly-christened “Adult Services” section.

But Blumenthal, who was involved in the 2009 investigation, feels that, since then, few things (other than the site name) have changed.  He is also concerned that Craigslist is profiting off of illegal services.

“The Craigslist brothel business seems booming, belying its promise to fight prostitution,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “The best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on Craigslist, skimpily and slickly disguised with code words. We are asking Craigslist for specific answers about steps to screen and stop sex-for-money offers and whether the company is actually profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block.”

According to The Advanced Interactive Media (AIM) Group, the site generated $36 million in revenue in 2010 from its Adult Services Listings. Craigslist currently charges approximately $10 per ad posted to the site. None of these proceeds are being donated to charity.

"If published reports prove true, Craigslist may be earning … huge profits from prostitution and human trafficking ,” Blumenthal said via a  press release. “Even if Craigslist only provides a host site for the ads, it should be held accountable."

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster responded to Blumenthal’s allegations in a blog post, saying “Craigslist has gone beyond fulfilling its legal obligations, far beyond classifieds industry norms, has more than lived up to any promises it made, and working together with its partners is in fact a leader in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.”

Regardless, it’s possible that this time, more than a name change will be required.

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