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Craigslist Moves to Mollify Sex-Ad Critics

Buckling under criticism from law enforcement officials, Craigslist is taking steps to keep prostitution from running rampant on its pages. "Erotic" is out and "adult" is in at the popular online classified ad service, which instituted changes on May 13 designed to better police the freewheeling ads that critics contend often cross the line into illegal activity such as prostitution.

According to a statement issued by Craigslist, postings to the current "erotic services" category on the site will no longer be accepted and in seven days the category will be removed. Concurrently, a new "adult services" category has been opened for postings by "legal adult services providers."

In a switch for Craigslist, postings to the new adult-services area will be individually reviewed before they are listed. Previously, posts to such areas relied on community moderation, meaning that they were reviewed only if a complaint was lodged. Unlike most other areas of Craigslist, where postings are free, new postings to adult-services areas will cost $10. Once they are approved, they will be eligible for reposting for $5.

Officials' Complaints Piled Up

"We are optimistic that the new balance struck today will be an acceptable compromise from the perspective of these constituencies and for the hugely diverse U.S. communities that value and rely upon craigslist," CEO Jim Buckmaster wrote in a Web site blog post.

The scrutiny of Craigslist intensified in April after police arrested a Boston man accused of slaying a woman he met through the site. Last week, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster threatened that if Craigslist didn't remove the erotic-services section in that state by May 15, he would open a criminal investigation into the company's executives, including Buckmaster.

Two months ago in Chicago, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart filed a lawsuit alleging that Craigslist allowed the solicitation of prostitution and had created the "largest source of prostitution in America."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the attorneys general of Connecticut and Missouri met with Craigslist officials last week, seeking an end to ads they contended were advertisements for illegal sexual activities.

No "Ultimate or Complete Solution"

"We're very encouraged that Craigslist is doing the right thing in eliminating its online red light district with prostitution and pornography in plain sight. We'll be watching and investigating critically to make sure this measure is more than just a name change," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

"This is a good next step but by no means is it the ultimate or complete solution," he said.

Blumenthal had brokered an agreement with Craiglist in November to crack down on prostitution ads. As part of that agreement, Craiglist imposed a small fee on erotic-services postings, with the revenues going to charity. It also required a working telephone number for posters.

Craiglist has contended that its adult postings are safer than classified ads appearing in print publications. Today's statement repeats that point: "[T]he record is clear that use of craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole."

Mintz is news editor for in New York. Kharif is a reporter for in Portland, Ore. The Associated Press contributed to this report

Mintz is news editor for in New York.

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