Connecticut AG: Craigslist Cleanup Much Appreciated12:53 PM EST Thu. May. 14, 2009
Craigslist caved Thursday and agreed to dismantle its controversial erotic services section, an action that pleased Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
In a blog posting on the company's site yesterday, CEO Jim Buckmaster said that the company will no longer accept ads for the erotic services category from the site and that the section will be shuttered in a week.
"I am pleased that Craigslist is continuing to cooperate with our coalition of more than 40 states," Blumenthal said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing the battle -- hopefully with Craigslist as a partner -- against prostitution and human trafficking."
Buckmaster also said that the name "erotic services" will be changed to "adult services." While the moniker switch seems inconsequential, Buckmaster said that the section will now only run ads from legal adult service providers and not individuals.
Additionally, Buckmaster said that adult ads will now be manually reviewed. Newly submitted postings will cost $10, but once approved will be eligible for reposting at $5, Buckmaster said.
Blumenthal headed up a multistate attorneys general task force that started an investigation and threatened to bring prostitution charges against the Web site following the April 14 murder of 23-year-old Julissa Brisman. Brisman was allegedly killed by Philip Markoff, who had contacted her on the erotic services section of the site. Markoff, dubbed "the Craigslist killer" by the media, has also been charged in the brutal attacks against two other women he met on Craigslist.
In addition to Connecticut, state attorneys general in South Carolina, Illinois and Missouri had threatened to take legal action to squash ads that they said equated to prostitution.
Buckmaster has bristled at the AGs' accusations. In response to complaints and threats of prosecution earlier this month by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMasters, Buckmaster said on his blog, "We see no legal basis whatsoever for filing a lawsuit against Craigslist or its principals and hope that the Attorney General will realize this upon further reflection."
Several commentators on the blog supported Buckmaster's sentiments and accused McMaster of pulling a political publicity stunt, and said he was "meddling in our constitutional freedoms."
Although he has agreed to make changes to the site, Buckmaster still defends the service.
"Unsurprisingly, but completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic journalism we've seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of Craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole," he wrote.
In yet another strange twist, Buckmaster said that the company's "announced intention to contribute 100 percent of net revenues for the 'erotic services' category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding criticism questioning our good faith in this regard."
But because of the site's changes, and to avoid misunderstanding, Buckmaster said that the company is not making any "representation regarding how revenue from the 'adult services' category will be used. Our commitment to philanthropy remains, and Craigslist will continue to develop its charitable initiatives."