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Craigslist agrees to scrap erotic services ads amid AGs' pressures

By Chris Rizo | May 13, 2009

Lisa Madigan (D-Ill.)

Greg Abbott (R-Texas)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-In a major win for a group of state attorneys general, the online classified site Craigslist.org has agreed to drop its erotic services section.

The company was pressed by such Democratic state attorneys general as Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Chris Koster of Missouri to jettison the heading, which officials said was a platform to promote for prostitution. They met with Craigslist last week.

"It's clear to everyone that Craigslist's erotic services section was nothing more than an Internet brothel," Madigan said in a statement. "I'm encouraged that Craigslist has agreed to fundamentally change how they operate and monitor their site. The steps they're taking are the only effective way to prevent the exploitation of women and children."

In its place, Craigslist has created an "adult services" category for which new listings would be reviewed individually. Posts to the new section will cost $10, which is twice as much as the fee was for erotic services listings.

Nude or graphic photos will also be banned from the adult services section.

"This is a win for the safety and security of all who may access Craigslist -- especially children," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican. "Making these changes is a step in the right direction, as Craigslist must work to eliminate prostitution and other illegal conduct on its site. We will continue to monitor Craigslist to ensure it establishes ongoing and meaningful safeguards."

Law enforcement officials had long been critical of the erotic services section, but their cries became louder after the death of 26-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman, whose body was found April 14 in a room at Boston's Marriott Copley Place hotel.

She is believed to have been killed by Boston University medical student Philip Markoff, 23, who found her through a Craigslist erotic services advertisement. Markoff has pleaded not guilty.

In November 2008, 43 stare attorneys general brokered a deal with Craigslist that the site would crackdown on inappropriate content and illegal activity in its erotic services section.

In April, Madigan sais she sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, calling on the Web site to shut down the erotic services section amid evidence Craigslist had breached its agreement by not developing an effective screening procedure for ads.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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