Craigslist closes “internet brothel”

Craigslist will replace its “erotic services” ads with a new adult category following pressure by state authorities after the murder of a masseuse who advertised on the site.

Craigslist closes

The “erotic services” section will end within the week and be replaced by an “adult services” category where advertisements will be individually screened by Craigslist staff.

Postings to the new section will cost $10. Once they are approved, they will be eligible for reposting at $5, the company has announced.

“Closing the erotic services section, a blatant internet brothel, should lead to other blocking and screening measures, and set a model for other sites, if Craigslist keeps its word,” says Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

“We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from erotic to adult and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography,” he adds.

Not every state was satisfied. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has pressed Craigslist to go further by tracking computer IP addresses of suspected prostitution rings and take other safeguards.

“Several weeks ago, we informed Craigslist of an impending criminal case that implicated its website. 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,” says Cuomo.

His office declined to elaborate on the criminal case.

Craigslist’s sex-service listings have faced intense scrutiny since the 14 April murder of 25-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman, who advertised on Craigslist in Boston.

Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old Boston University medical student, was charged with killing Brisman and with attacks on two other women he met through Craigslist ads.

Craigslist, a 14-year-old online bazaar that generates more than 20 billion page views per month in 50 countries with a staff of just 28 people, is partially owned by online auctioneer eBay, which bought 25% in 2004.

Craigslist had already made some changes to curb illegal activity on its site. Under pressure from 40 US attorneys general, the site agreed in November to charge people posting erotic ads $5-$10 by credit card and require them to submit a working phone number to use the site.

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