Critics Charge Craigslist Functions as Bulletin Board for Child Prostitution

Richard Blumenthal, attorney general of Connecticut, has called for classified advertisement service Craigslist to shut down its adult services section. In addition, Blumenthal stated that he intends to call for his fellow state attorneys general to make similar demands of Craigslist. No particular legal action has been filed, however.

“The continued prevalence of prostitution ads belies Craigslist’s promises to combat them,” Blumenthal said. “I am calling on Craigslist to abolish the adult services section — and I will be urging my fellow attorneys general to join me. There is no reason, technological or otherwise, that open prostitution and human trafficking cannot be eliminated from the site.”

Stepping Forward

Blumenthal’s office declined TechNewsWorld’s request for further comment; however, the current push coincides with fallout from a series of half-page ads purchased in major print outlets like The Washington Post describing the experiences of young women who have been the victim of sex trafficking. The letter-writing victim, “AK,” was connected with the organization that purchased the ads, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, through the advocacy group Fair Fund, according to Andrea Powell, Fair Fund’s executive director.

“AK” is no longer a minor, explained Powell, and she now is willing and able to step forward and tell her story. Among other horrifying details, she tells of committing sex acts that garnered over US$30,000 per month for her trafficker. That man, said Powell, was eventually arrested but failed to show for his arraignment.

The executives of Craigslist have come forward to say they hope the “perpetrators” of these crimes are apprehended. However, Powell noted that the word “perpetrators,” when it comes to sex trafficking, can apply to thousands of people — the trafficker himself, in this case, as well as all the people who bought sexual services through him. Thus, it is highly unlikely that all those involved in the illegal activities will be identified by law enforcement.

Prohibition Didn’t Work

In the case of Craigslist, asserted Powell, the onus of intervening in illegal activities involving minors falls squarely on the shoulders of the Web service itself.

“Craigslist is the Wal-Mart of sex trafficking,” she argued. “A lot of guys will not want to go to other sites, but Craigslist seems more legit.” Admittedly, it is very difficult to know if a minor is behind a particular sexually explicit ad, either as the one offering services or as a child being offered by a trafficker, she explained. Thus, “unless Craigslist is willing to monitor every single ad that goes up, I don’t see how they can continue to have this [adult services portion of the] site up.”

In fact, it is very difficult to police adult classified ads from a governmental or law enforcement angle, Claire Simmers, chair and professor of international business at Saint Joseph’s University, told TechNewsWorld. “With the Internet,” she posited, “government bans are likely to be less effective than Prohibition of the 1920s; supply and access will not stop.”

Instead, argued Simmers, “what is best for business is to understand who their target customers are, promote their image, and proactively self-supervise.” She wondered whether or not Craigslist would include marketing adult services among its core activities. “Is it Craigslist’s mission to provide an adult classified section? I doubt that this is socially responsible behavior, and it is inconsistent with their growth model,” she stressed.


  • I AM not suggesting that you are wrong, but let’s suppose that you get what you are asking for – that Craig’s List accedes to these demands and abandons its adult services section. I have to wonder, Will not new adult-services websites arise, created by entrepreneurs enticed by visions of profits? These new websites will probably be located abroad, forever immune to any future influence or pressure from you. Are we better off with that, or with an unchanged Craig’s List – a central site that is known to you and to authorities, and can be monitored? – Prof Patt,

    • is simply that, from a law enforcement stand point, you can’t enforce this stuff at all. Some place like Nevada’s sex ranches, you can check IDs, of both the people working, and the people coming in. You can’t even legally acknowledge the ones running the "street" based rings, verify ages, other than arresting them, prevent the pimp from bailing them out, then selling them off to someone else, so they never show up in court, etc. You hardly need a business license for it, never mind a physical place of business. If "any" of those things where needed, or possible, you would have far fewer people breaking the rules, since it would be more expensive to break them than run a legit business.

      But it doesn’t just stop there. Unless you plan to use reversible forms of chemical castration, on both men and women, until they get into a serious "relationship", or plan to police those relationships to prevent people ever cheating, never mind that the definition of the later can get sloppy, in that you have swingers, or even people hiring for one time three ways, or the like… Basically, way more than even drugs, for which much of our problem is the politics that its cheaper and easier, in the short term to jail people, and make big busts, than it is to find *real* cures for addiction (which, in the case of ones like one being tested in Europe, can be almost as dangerous as the drugs they cure), and programs that can try to find other solutions for people, than taking drugs (which would have to start with the near universal use of things like steroids in sports, etc., or if you can’t/won’t fix that, then better availability of "safer" ones, which don’t promote worse usage), you can’t **cure** sex. People are going to want it, people are going to do it in anger at a boy friend of girl friend, people are going to do it to see what its like in a group, etc., etc., etc. And, the whole system is 100% stacked *against* dealing with human trafficking, and child porn, because you can’t tie the ones that "would be" legit, if they could, down to a known location, and the rest, don’t have a permanent address, so instead of dealing with a small number of people doing this, you.. well, you end up doing the equivalent, in the "drug war" of watching 4 meth manufacturers change neighborhoods, due to being spooked, while busting two idiots in a car, for 4 ounces of pot.

      But, that isn’t the worst problem. The semi-normal activities are so prevalent, and so impossible to keep track of, that probably 70-80% of the police departments in the US deny, don’t believe in, or don’t want to hear about, "human trafficking". Maybe that has changed in recent years, but no near total denial of a problem *ever* changes over night, and most of them **still** treat the people they arrest as having "wanting" to be in the business, or "wanting" to be drugged, or "wanting" to be bailed out by someone, and ending up back on the street.

      How do you prevent trafficking, if the police departments assume that every person they pick up is either a) there by choice, b) a run away, or c) wants to go back to their pimp? And, how do you tell which ones *are* in the above three categories, if the **only** people running such businesses are doing so illegally, and its therefor impossible to tell a) who chose the profession, b) who actually got the job as a runaway, instead of a kidnapping, and c) whether of not the person bailing them out is, the pimp, a representative of the pimp, or their kidnapper?

      If you don’t fix the basic problem, the fact that places like Craig’s List have postings that are of questionable content is as meaningless as accusing Ebay of sometimes having things posted for sale by people that stole them. Its meaningless, and removing it entirely only, as you say, engenders the creation of someone else to do the job, and undermines businesses that provide more legitimate (albeit, indirect, and therefor the police can’t arrest you for it..) business. And, that is also a huge joke. Its like selling someone an "herbal" supplement, instead of a "cure for baldness". You can be arrested for the later, but not the former, even if it is the *same* product, and even if you say, on the box, "may cure baldness". You can be arrested for "selling sex", but not for, "selling escort services". Shear idiocy!!!

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