State AGs Demand That Craigslist Pull Plug on Adult Services Section

woman shocked surprised laptopCraigslist's adult services ad section is facing heat again as law enforcement officials from 17 states sent a letter Tuesday demanding the online classifieds giant immediately pull the plug on its triple-X area.

The joint-letter from 17 state attorneys general is just the latest move by the states over the past couple of years to restrain a section of the site that authorities allege is touting prostitution and trafficking of children. The letter also signals heightened frustration by authorities, who say Craigslist has failed to comply with its 2008 agreement to rigorously monitor the section so as to prevent the "facilitation of human trafficking, child exploitation, and other illegal activities," despite repeated requests by the states.

Estimated Revenues of $100 Million Last Year

In the letter sent to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster, the attorneys general state:
Your much-touted "manual review" of Adult Services ads has failed to yield any discernible reduction in obvious solicitations. We recognize that Craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads. No amount of money can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of the woman and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist.
Last year, the privately held Craigslist pulled in an estimated $100 million in revenues for its entire site. And the company generates more than 20 billion page views a month from its largely free online classified ads.

The letter from the state AGs comes several months after Connecticut Attorney General Richard subpoenaed Craigslist, seeking information on the steps the company was taking to monitor adult services ads and whether it was profiting from prostitution ads.

Public Pressure

Craigslist is apparently also feeling pressure from the public as well.

Last month, two girls claiming they were trafficked for sex via Craigslist published an "open letter" to the company in an ad in the Washington Post, according to a statement by Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, one of the 17 state AGs who signed the joint letter.

And just last week, a man dubbed the "Craigslist Killer" was found dead of an apparent suicide inside his jail cell, according to an ABC News report. Philip Markoff was arrested and awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges in the death of a masseuse who had posted a Craigslist ad offering a "sexual release" massage. Markoff also allegedly robbed a Las Vegas hooker and a Rhode Island exotic dancer who had both posted ads on Craigslist.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported fewer than 50 referrals since Craigslist entered into its 2008 agreement, Six noted, citing a CNN report earlier this month.

"Only Craigslist has the power to stop these ads before they are even published, and sadly they are completely unwilling to do so," Six said. "We continue to work to bring these criminals to justice, but in the meantime the victimization of children continues."

Craigslist was not immediately available for comment.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How much house can I afford

Home buying 101, evaluating one of your most important financial decisions.

View Course »

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »