CHICAGO – The online classified ads site Craigslist will drop its “erotic services” category that critics called a front for prostitution, replacing it with an adult category to be monitored internally, government enforcers from three states said Wednesday.
Pressure to remove the category increased this spring after a Boston medical student was charged with killing a masseuse who authorities say he met through Craigslist.
Two months ago, 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.”
Craigslist attorney Eric Brandfonbrener, appearing in federal court for a hearing on the lawsuit, acknowledged the Web site is eliminating the “erotic services” category. He told U.S. District Judge John Grady that Craigslist is undergoing changes he expects will satisfy the lawsuit’s concerns.
“My expectation is that it will be moot,” Brandfonbrener told the judge.
Dart attorney Daniel Gallagher said he remained skeptical.
“They’ve made promises to attorneys general in the past,” Gallagher said, noting that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had brokered an agreement with the site in November to crack down on prostitution ads after being contacted about several complaints over photographs depicting nudity.
“I’m not going to take their word for it. We want to see action,” Gallagher said.
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.
Madigan’s office said Wednesday such existing ads on the Craigslist Web site will expire in seven days.
“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 Craigslist in November to crack down on prostitution ads.