Craigslist will eliminate its "erotic services" category in seven days and will begin screening all submissions to a new "adult services" section for signs of prostitution before they are posted, the site announced Wednesday.
The new “adult services” ads will cost money to place, unlike regular Craigslist ads.
The move by Craigslist comes a month after a masseuse who advertised on the site was murdered by a Boston medical student who’d responded to her ad.
A statement by Craigslist spokesperson Susan MacTavish Best challenged the idea that the “erotic services” category was a breeding ground for violent acts.
“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 far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole.”
Craigslist has never pre-screened ads. The site removes an ad only after receiving complaints.
Law enforcement officials who had been pressuring Craigslist about the “erotic services” category were skeptical about whether it would truly end the use of Craigslist and similar web sites for prostitution.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a statement saying that Wednesday’s announcement came only after his office informed Craigslist that it had been implicated in a criminal probe.
"Rather than work with this office to prevent further abuses, in the middle of the night, Craigslist took unilateral action which we suspect will prove to be half-baked," the statement said in part.
Dan Gallagher, an attorney representing Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, told the AP: "I’m not going to take their word for it. We want to see action." Dart sued Craigslist in March, accusing it of being the nation’s biggest source of prostitution.
Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, said the move was “strictly voluntary” and not made in response to legal pressure.
“In striking this new balance we have sought to incorporate important feedback from all the groups that have expressed strongly held views on this subject, including some of the state A.G.s, free speech advocates and legal businesses who are accustomed to being entitled to advertise,” Mr. Buckmaster told the New York Times.
The statement by MacTavish Best noted that the site will not commit to donating revenue from the “adult services” category to charity, as it had done with “erotic services” funds.
“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 criticism questioning our good faith in this regard. However, in light of today’s changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation regarding how revenue from the "adult services" category will be used."