Craigslist, a leading outlet for classified advertisements online, announced this week that it had permanently closed its controversial adult services section. Worn down by pressure from state attorneys general and advocacy groups, Craigslist will no longer provide a venue for pimps and prostitutes to advertise through thinly veiled offers for "out-calls" and "in-calls." That's a good thing for Craigslist's reputation, but it won't make much of a dent in the sex trade.
Federal law protects Craigslist and other sites that publish user-generated content, even if that content promotes an illegal activity. In addition, the company has placed a growing number of controls on its ads for adult services, reviewing each entry and creating a paper trail of phone numbers and credit card receipts for investigators to follow. As a result, adult services ads on Craigslist have dropped sharply, the company's statistics show.
Nevertheless, the complaints continued. In August, two women who said they were victims of sex trafficking took out ads in the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle urging Craigslist founder Craig Newmark to shutter the adult services section. "New traffickers are putting up ads every day," they warned, "because they know it's less risky and more profitable to sell girls on Craigslist than to deal drugs."