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Craigslist says shutdown of adult services section permanent

September 15, 2010

Craigslist, breaking nearly two weeks of silence, said Wednesday that the shutdown of the "adult services" section at the online classifieds website in the United States was permanent.

Craigslist removed adult services ads on September 3 following months of pressure from state law enforcement officials and some advocacy groups who charged that they facilitated prostitution.

But the quirky San Francisco-based website had declined until Wednesday to provide an explanation for the abrupt removal of adult services ads or say if it was permanent.

In an appearance before a congressional committee looking into the sexual trafficking of minors, William Powell, a Craigslist director, said the site had "no plans to reinstate the category."

"Those who formerly posted ads in the adult services category will now have to advertise elsewhere," Powell, Craigslist's director of customer service and law enforcement relations, told the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Powell said the shutdown of the adult services section applied only to the United States at the moment and that erotic services categories remained on Craigslist sites in other countries, including Canada.

"It's my understanding that there are a number of issues country by country as well as legal issues for that," Powell said, stressing that "97 percent of our viewers and use are in the United States and Canada."

Elizabeth McDougall, a counsel to Craigslist on online safety and security, said the site was working with the Canadian authorities but there had been no request from Canada to remove adult services ads there.

"They are a sovereign nation," she told the committee. "We don't believe that it's appropriate for the US policy to dictate what Canada's policy should be with respect to the Craigslist website and adult services."

Craigslist shut down the link to its adult services section on September 3, replacing it with the single world "censored."

The "censored" tag was removed a few days later and the adult services section of Craigslist.org -- which offers users free and paid advertising for everything from houses to babysitters to furniture for sale -- disappeared.

Powell and McDougall stressed the efforts Craigslist has made to monitor adult services ads, including pre-screening of all submissions and working with state attorney generals, law enforcement and advocacy groups.

"Craigslist has been one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation," Powell said.

"It is our sincere hope that law enforcement and advocacy groups will find helpful partners" at other sites which offer adult services ads, he said.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said removing adult services ads on Craigslist was a "positive and constructive step" but "the problem is much wider than Craigslist."

Nicholas Sensley, chief of police of Truckee, California, agreed, saying Craigslist is "only one of many" sites offering adult services ads and "to their credit, not nearly the worst."


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