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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Craigslist: Super-Pimp

Cook County sheriff, Tom Dart, called Craigslist.com, "the single largest source of prostitution in the nation." Dart is asking a federal judge to force Craigslist to shut down its "Erotic Services" section and reimburse taxpayers the money police have spent investigating and arresting prostitutes discovered through the popular website.

The Erotic Services section is the most visited department on the site, drawing an estimated 9 billion views and 30 million new ads each month. Dart said the site rakes in $80 million annually - much of it from "Missing children, runaways, abused women and women trafficked in from foreign countries [who] are routinely forced to have sex with strangers." Craigslist denies this, claiming it donates all of its profits from this category to charity.

The site bears a warning to all entering the area, and suggests users flag any ad or content which appears illegal, which "includes, but is not limited to, offers for or the solicitation of prostitution." Further, there is a warning specifically mentioning "human trafficking." However, the ads featured alongside the free "classifieds" posted by users contain pornographic images, as well as offers for "erotic massages," "incalls and outcalls," and other activities known to be slang for prostitution and sex acts.

The Cook County sheriff's office listed several explicit headlines from ads which appeared on Craigslist recently, headlines which clearly offer sex and sexual acts in exchange for money (usually "$150-350 in roses"), including one from a man offering money to "explore a daddy-daughter sexual relationship." The office then explained it recently posted an ad claiming to be from a 15-year old girl which drew numerous responses, including one from a convicted sex offender.

Craigslist spokespersons note ads for such services have appeared in phonebooks and Yellow Pages for years and the "Erotic Services" section was developed in response to users, who were tired of seeing the explicit ads mixed-in with regular personals. Ads from the department have resulted in countless prostitution arrests nationwide.

The website recently reached an agreement with several states, calling for it to crack-down on prostitution.
© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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