State AG Wants Craigslist To Nix Hooker Ads - InformationWeek

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4/23/2009
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State AG Wants Craigslist To Nix Hooker Ads

Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal says social networking site should use IT to eliminate sex listings.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is calling on Craigslist to take several steps to stamp out prostitution on the Web site.

Blumenthal wants to ban photographs on Craigslist's "erotic services" section or mandate technology that would screen for ads and images that violate the site's terms of service. He asked the Web site's operators to increase fees for ads in the erotic services section and offer financial incentives to Craigslist users who correctly flag and report prostitution ads. He also wants the site to confirm the identities of users posting in the erotic services section and ban search terms associated with prostitution.

"These signature steps can stop ads that lead to horrific brutal tragedy such as the Boston murder, as well as other violent crime, human trafficking, or exploitation of children," Blumenthal said in a statement.

Blumenthal sent a letter Wednesday asking Craigslist to implement the changes immediately in light of a recent Craigslist killing. Medical student Philip Markoff has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shooting death of Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old New York City woman who had advertised massages on the site.

"Craigslist has the means -- and moral obligation -- to stop the pimping and prostituting in plain sight," he said. "Like any bricks and mortar establishment, Craigslist has the responsibility and power to prohibit prostitution, pornography, and inappropriate behavior on its premises. My proposals are feasible and affordable -- including readily available new technology to block pornography and screen out prostitutes, along with financial penalties and incentive payments."

Blumenthal noted changes that Craigslist has already made, such as requiring telephone numbers and credit card charges for erotic services ads, but he said those steps are insufficient.

"Enforcement must be matched with prevention," he said, adding that the Web site should impose financial penalties and charge users' credit cards when users violate the site's prohibition on porn and prostitution.

The proceeds can pay for rewards to users who report illegal activity, he said.

The site has already agreed to give fees from erotic services ads to charities.

"I appreciate and anticipate that Craigslist will cooperate -- just as it agreed to preliminary measures six months ago with our group of 40 attorneys general to protect our children from exploitation and inappropriate material on the Web," Blumenthal said. "The Boston Craigslist killer case shows again that prostitution is not a victimless crime. Prostitution ads and pornography -- easily accessed by children every day on Craigslist -- are often associated with human trafficking, drug activity, and child exploitation."

Blumenthal said he wants to meet with Craigslist representatives as soon as possible to discuss a second agreement, which would implement the recommendations.

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