Illinois attorney general demands shutdown of Craigslist’s erotic services section


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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to Craigslist today regarding what she called ‘the rampant prostitution and exploitation of women’ on the site’s erotic services section. Madigan became the latest state law enforcement chief to request that the section be taken down after the killing of a woman who had posted a massage advertisement there two weeks ago. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has defended that area of the site.

Madigan alleges that Craigslist has not fully met the terms of a November 2008 agreement it signed with the attorneys general of 43 states [PDF here], in which the classifieds website agreed, among other things, to the development of what the letter calls ‘an electronic screening system to prevent posting of certain advertisements,’ language and images that violate Craigslist’s terms of use.


The system, Madigan’s letter says, has not been effective.

‘While there has been an approximately 40% decrease in daily postings, more than 400 ads are posted daily in Chicago alone,’ the letter stated, ‘and the vast majority of ads blatantly violate even the most basic terms of use.’

Craigslist did not immediately return a request for comment.

In January, the letter says, Madigan’s office coordinated an effort in which Chicago advocates and law enforcement personnel used the flagging mechanism that Craigslist offers to complain about ‘hundreds of ads’ in the erotic services section of the local version of the website. ‘In response to the flags, no ad was removed or subject to ‘speedy removal’ as represented by craigslist,’ the letter says.

Madigan demanded that the erotic services section be removed from the site immediately, and requested a variety of information about the functionality of Craigslist’s flagging system, and the degree to which it has been used to enforce the site’s terms of service.

Finally, Madigan asks for an affidavit from Craigslist’s public accounting firm of the fees raised from erotic services postings. The November agreement stipulated that 100% of those fees would be donated to charity.

Asked for an example of an ad that it believed violated the terms of service, Madigan’s office sent the text of a current posting in which a woman offers ‘Discreet outcalls to your private residence,’ before specifying an hourly rate. The title and text of the advertisement contain explicit sexual language, and it’s accompanied by a graphic image of a woman in a sexual position.

-- David Sarno