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Craigslist Announces it Will Drop "Erotic Services" Category Associated With Murders

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Last week, New Times featured an in-depth look at the hype surrounding the "Craigslist Killings." Much of the controversy and opposition centered on the "Erotic Services" section of the Web site.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sheriff Thomas Dart of Cook County, Illinois both wanted it removed. But Craigslist was defiant that the section would remain -- at the time the article was written. (Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is pictured above speaking at a memorial concert for Minnesota murder victim Katherine Olson.)  

Today, a press release from Craigslist announces that the "Erotic Services" secton will end within seven days and be replaced with a new section called "Adult Services." A statement from Craigslist says, "Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed [by staff] ] before appearing on the site."


In the New Times feature, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster hinted that a deal was in the works:

Buckmaster says Craigslist welcomes the "constructive criticism" and confirm that the two sides are in the midst of hashing out a voluntary agreement. But don't expect Craigslist's most popular and controversial category to go away anytime soon.

Before Craigslist's statement was obtained, wire services reported that the Erotic Services category would be dropped in favor of the new name:

BOSTON (Reuters) - Online classified site Craigslist will replace its "erotic services" ads with a new adult category "to bar flagrant prostitution and porn," the Connecticut attorney general's office said on Wednesday.

Craigslist's sex-service listings have faced intense scrutiny following the April 14 murder of 25-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman, who advertised on Craigslist in Boston. Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old Boston University medical student, was charged with killing Brisman and with attacks on two other women he met through Craigslist.

The "erotic services" section will end within seven days and be replaced with a new section called "adult services" where every advertisement will be manually reviewed by Craigslist staff, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.

In  its statement, Craigslist explained that each posting under the new category will cost $10, a $5 increase, and be reviewed by staff. The statement took a shot at recent press coverage surrounding the highly publicized murders. Here is the full release:

As of today for all US sites, postings to the "erotic services" category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed.

Also effective today for all US sites, a new category entitled "adult services" will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers. Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use. New postings will cost $10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5.

Unsurprisingly, but completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic "journalism" we've seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of craigslist classifieds is associated with , let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole.

The relative safety of craigslist compared to print classifieds is likely due to some combination of:

* Measures such as blocking, screening, and telephone verification

* Community moderation via flagging system

* Electronic trail ensures violent criminals are quickly caught

* Personal safety tips prominently posted

* Unusually high level of cooperation with law enforcement

Community moderation as exemplified by our flagging system is arguably the most successful system ever conceived for eliminating inappropriate activity from a massive internet community. Working in tandem with various other protective technologies, it is an inescapable force to be reckoned with for anyone set on abusing free internet communications across a broad array of posting types.

However, with respect to this new paid category for advertising by legal businesses, we will experiment with some of the methods traditionally employed in paid print classifieds.

We'd like to thank everyone who has provided helpful input over the past few weeks, all of which we've closely considered:

* Our users, whose suggestions have shaped every aspect of craigslist

* Attorneys General, who have provided valuable constructive criticism

* Law Enforcement officers nationwide, who have been hugely supportive

* Legal businesses concerned at their right to advertise being questioned

* EFF and other legal experts defending free speech and Internet law

We are optimistic that the new balance struck today will be an acceptable compromise from the perspective of these constituencies, and for the hugely diverse US communities that value and rely upon craigslist.

Note: Our announced intention to contribute 100% of net revenues for the "erotic services" category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding in this regard. However, in light of today's changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation today regarding how revenue from the "adult services" category will be used. Our overall commitment to philanthropy remains, and craigslist will carry on with its charitable initiatives as it sees fit.

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