Nearly three weeks after online classified ad giant Craigslist.org removed the hotly contested “Adult Services” section from its website, a company spokesman announced that they plan to keep the category shut down for good.
The company was responding to an outcry from human trafficking advocacy groups and state attorneys general that accused Craigslist of not doing enough to deter child prostitution and other illegal activities, which they say are rampant on the site.
“We have no plans to reinstate the category,” said William “Clint” Powell, director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist during a hearing Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. “Those who formerly posted ads in the adult services category will now have to advertise elsewhere.”
Craigslist argues that although it cannot stop everyone from using the site for illegal purposes, the site has ample safeguards and has always been cooperative with law enforcement investigations. According to federal law, online networks like Craigslist are not legally liable for the content posted on their sites.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee called on Craigslist to permanently remove the adult section during the hearing, a move the company’s executives have said could make it more difficult to find sex criminals because abusers would use other sections of the site for the same purposes.
Despite the decision to delete the profitable category, (erotic services ads comprise about 30 percent of Craigslist’s annual revenue according to one report), Craigslist attorney Elizabeth McDougall reinforced the company’s efforts to limit the amount of illegal activity on the site.
“We have never been a friendly place for criminal activity,” McDougall said, adding that the move would do little to end the illegal sex trade. “The ads have migrated to other sites. The evidence for that is clear.”
Craigslist continues to run erotic service pages on its sites that cater to cities outside the United States.