Craigslist Removes An Adult Ad Section

Brent Finnegan -- September 14th, 2010

Craigslist shut down the adult services section of its websites on September 4.

The announcement followed recent pressure from U.S. attorneys general, including Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli, to end a service prosecutors say contributed to “misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by [the] ads.”

The San Francisco-based company, which currently has sites in over 500 cities in 50 countries, added a Harrisonburg site in the fall of 2006.

Pete DeLea reported in today’s Daily News-Record that “there have been a few sex crimes in the Harrisonburg area with ties to Craigslist.” The first was an FBI Child Exploitation Task Force operation in Leesburg which nabbed C. Phillip Diehl Jr. Diehl allegedly responded to an ad placed by police, and offered beer and $40 in exchange for sex with a 13-year-old girl. Diehl reportedly killed himself at his home in Broadway the day of his hearing in federal court.

The other incident(s) mentioned in the DNR article involved anonymous solicitation between consenting adults meeting in public toilet stalls.

. . . men were arrested at the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg in a case involving Craigslist. According to a search warrant filed in the case, police say the men were using Craigslist to solicit other men for sexual favors in the mall’s restrooms.

It’s unclear whether those incidents were specifically connected to the adult services section. They may have been solicited via the personals section, which is still fully operational (link NSFW).

Whether the removal of the adult services section cuts down on sex crimes remains to be seen. A senior researcher at Microsoft suggested last week that the removal of the section may make it harder for law enforcement to track and catch sexual predators.

[Adult services removal] fails to account for three important differences: 1) most ISPs have a fundamental business — if not moral — interest in helping protect people; 2) the visibility of illicit activities online makes it much easier to get at, and help, those who are being victimized; and 3) a one-stop-shop is more helpful for law enforcement than for criminals. In short, Craigslist is not a pimp, but a public perch from which law enforcement can watch without being seen.

However, the HPD spokesperson told the DNR that the removal was a positive move.

Mary-Hope Vass, public information officer with the Harrisonburg Police Department, said removing the ads is a step in the right direction.

“Any time a social networking site takes away the opportunity for individuals to meet in a potentially risky situation, it’s always a positive thing,” Vass said. “It certainly will be helpful, but there are many other sites and ways for people to do the same thing.”

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