BOSTON (Reuters) – Online classified site Craigslist will replace its "erotic services" ads with a new adult category following pressure by state authorities after the murder of a masseuse who advertised on the site.
The "erotic services" section will end within seven days and be replaced by an "adult services" category where advertisements will be individually screened by Craigslist staff, Craigslist said in a statement on Wednesday.
The measures could set a precedent for similar sites, said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who led a 40-state task-force on Craigslist and campaigned publicly for tighter controls on the San Francisco-based service.
"Closing the erotic services section, a blatant Internet brothel, should lead to other blocking and screening measures, and set a model for other sites, if Craigslist keeps its word," he said.
Craigslist's sex-service listings have faced intense scrutiny since the April 14 murder of 25-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman, who advertised on Craigslist in Boston.
Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old Boston University medical student, was charged with killing Brisman and with attacks on two other women who he met through Craigslist ads.
Craigslist, a 14-year-old online bazaar that generates more than 20 billion page views per month in 50 countries with a staff of just 28 people, is partially owned by online auctioneer eBay, which bought 25 percent in 2004.
Along with free listings for everything from apartments and furniture to jobs and cars, Craigslist.org carries one of the largest and most controversial sex-service listings. Its rapid growth and low-cost business model have hurt newspapers by siphoning away advertising revenue.
Postings to the "erotic services" section will no longer be accepted, Craigslist said. Postings to the new section, which opened on Wednesday, cost $10. Once they are approved, they will be eligible for reposting at $5, the website added.
In April, Blumenthal asked Craigslist officials to eliminate photographs in the "erotic services" and similar sections of the site, hire staff to screen ads that violate Craigslist rules and offer incentives for people who flag and report prostitution advertisements.
"We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from erotic to adult and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography," Blumenthal said.
Tabloids dubbed Markoff "the Craigslist killer."
The murder followed the killing of George Weber, a New York reporter knifed to death after responding to a personal ad he placed on Craigslist in March, and the early-April sentencing of Michael Anderson, a Minnesota man convicted of killing a woman who responded to a babysitting ad.
(Editing by Helen Popper)
In response to the above article, several organizations joined to create this release:PRESS RELEASE: “Erotic Services” Denied: Craigslist and Attorneys General Are Putting Sex Workers At Risk
This is a collaborative press release - please distribute and repost widely!
Dylan Wolfe - Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), firstname.lastname@example.org
Will Rockwell - $pread Magazine, email@example.com
Audacia Ray - Sex Work Awareness (SWA), firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Blake - Prostitutes of New York (PONY), email@example.com
Michael Bottoms - Sex Workers Outreach Project - New York City (SWOP-NYC), firstname.lastname@example.org
With Craigslist’s recent announcement that its Erotic Services category will be discontinued within the week, hundreds of thousands of erotic service providers will become more vulnerable to dangerous predators. Eliminating erotic listings as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and others propose will only drive us further underground.
Policing the masseuses, phone workers, pro-dominants, and escorts using Craigslist fails to protect those of us who are coerced into the sex industry. Preventing the use of Craigslist advertisements also eliminates the advantage of screening clients online, which makes for a safer work experience by filtering out potentially dangerous individuals. Furthermore, keeping us offline hinders police investigations of violent crime. In the Boston murder of Julissa Brisman, it was online tracking that enabled the police to identify the suspect. One has to wonder: are the Attorneys General examining the evidence or simply enforcing their moral values?
“Removing the erotic services category from Craigslist does not help prevent violence against escorts and other sex workers. It only pushes me and people like me out of the places where advertising is available,” said Jessica Bloom, a sex worker from Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK). In the face of increasing criminalization, we insist upon respect. As mothers, daughters, brothers, and members of your community, we claim that sex work is real work, work that we are entitled to conduct in safety. As such, we must be accorded the human right of full protection under the law.