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Has Craigslist Finally Censored Itself?

by Sean P. Aune | September 4, 2010September 4, 2010 11:00 am PDT

While the company has thus far been silent on the matter, it appears that popular classified ads website Craigslist may have finally given into mounting pressure in the United States to remove its controversial “Adult Services” section.

For years now people have pushed for Craigslist to remove its “Adult Services” section that was popular with prostitutes and escort services as a way to advertise their offerings.  The latest attack on the listings came from a group of 18 state attorney generals who sent an open letter to the site requesting that the section be removed.  In response to this, Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, told The San Fransisco Chronicle,  “Is moving advertising around our best hope for addressing these harms?  Then the ads fall under personals, and how long before the demand is that we shut down personals? And where do those ads go next? What other sections of our site would they like us to shut down?”

craigslist servicesDespite the company’s seeming reluctance to give in to this open letter, some time on Friday the Adult Services section was covered with a black box that had white letters on it that said “censored”.  Thus far this has only appeared on the site within the United States, and people in other countries confirm that the “censored” bar does not appear on their versions of the site.

Thus far Craigslist has not responded to any requests for comment, so what exactly has prompted this, and if it will return, are completely unknown at this time.

I feel Mr. Buckmaster is correct in that this will not do one thing to curtail prostitution on the site.  They will simply get more creative and move to other sections of the site, and it will turn into an endless game of cat-and-mouse.  While I certainly do not condone the illegal act of prostitution, I actually feel having this section was the proper thing to do.  You know people are going to post these ads, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop them, so be giving them their own “red light district”, people who don’t want to see them don’t have to.  Now, with the section closed, for all you know you could run into an ad in the “for sale – appliances” section.  Prostitution is a horrible business, and I certainly understand the need to curtail it, but this really feels like it accomplishes nothing.

Hopefully Craigslist will offer some sort of official statement soon, but for now the black bar remains a mystery.

What say you?  Did Craigslist handle this properly?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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