Craigslist has bowed to pressure and permanently removed its adult services ads in the US, after a House Judiciary subcommittee heard yesterday that the site had been used for child sex trafficking.
The classified ad publisher recently replaced the section with the word 'censored', but refused to say whether the move was going to be permanent. With as much as a third of the company's revenues coming from adult services, it was far from certain.
"When they hear the term 'child trafficking', most Americans think that it only happens somewhere else, in Southeast Asia or Central America. Even if they acknowledge that this crime happens in the United States, they assume the victims are foreign children brought into this country who are trafficked only in large cities," Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told the committee.
"In fact, we have learned that most of the victims of domestic minor sex trafficking are American kids who initially leave home voluntarily and are being trafficked on Main Street USA."
William Powell, diretor of customer service and law enforcement for Craigslist told the committee that Craigslist was "one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation". He said that the company had now decided to shut down the section - although only in the US.
But he added: "Those who formerly posted adult services ads on Craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues."
Others, too, have suggested that shutting down the adult section of the site would simply drive the problem elsewhere. But, said Allen, this argument isn't used to justify ignoring other types of crime.
"We must follow the money and follow the pimps. Like the pursuit of other kinds of criminal behavior, law enforcement will follow it wherever it goes," he said.