Craigslist hooker services getting less erotic

Craigslist has reportedly agreed to close its controversial ‘erotic services’ category, seen by many as a front for solicitation by prostitutes. It will be replaced by an adult services category where ads will be reviewed by site staff.

It’s the latest step in a long-running saga in which state attorneys general have pressured the site for allowing ads by escorts. While Craigslist’s own role in carrying such ads was legally disputed, placing ads like these is illegal in some states.

The pressure initially led to an agreement last October between Craiglist and attorney generals from 40 states. The site agreed to enforce rules requiring anyone posting in the category to supply a verified credit card number and phone number, making it easier for the authorities to investigate any  potentially illegal ads. Craigslist later introduced a $5 fee for postings in the category, saying it would donate the proceeds to charity.

The row reawakened after the recent arrest of a man accused of murdering a woman he met through the section. Craiglist met with attorney generals from three states last week, including Illinois’ Lisa Madigan (pictured) who had dubbed the site section “nothing more than an Internet brothel.” Henry Madigan, the attorney general of South Carolina, then joined in the attacks by writing to the site demanding it close the section for ads based in the state within 10 days or face legal action.

Madigan said today that the site has agreed to close the section, with all relevant ads to be removed within a week. Craigslist itself has not yet commented on the changes.

The change of name is largely symbolic and it’s the introduction of pre-screening of ads by staff which will be the more important develop. The problem now – assuming Craigslist genuinely wants to cut out advertising by prostitutes – is that staff may find themselves in a battle to keep up with escort-client code designed to slip through the process, in much the same way that many posters who definitely aren’t drug dealers seem particularly keen to meet new friends at around twenty past four.

Another possibility is that prostitutes will simply shift their adverts to different categories, either the casual encounters section (designed for people like British sitcom character Alan Partridge for whom “It was my understanding that no money would change hands”), or even into the section for adverts from legitimate sauna owners or masseuses.

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