Craigslist's "adult services" section blocked after human trafficking/prostitution controversy


From today's New York Times:

Craigslist, the popular classifieds Web site, has blocked access to its "adult services" section and replaced the link with a black label with the word "censored."


  1. Is this only for the American craigslist sites?

    I’m still seeing “erotic” under the services section… Also, after clicking reply and filling out a captcha, I get an email address. I don’t see where this $5 to respond to an ad comes from.

    Also, as a side note, I’ve never been to this section before, and I’m kinda surprised to see hundreds upon hundreds of ads per day, explicitly offering prostitution services, including x rated photos, and breakdowns of rates for various acts… I’m surprised they don’t even try to hide it as “escort” or “massage”. I never knew my little town was so classy.

  2. For God’s sakes won’t someone, somewhere, please hurry up and find a way to blame this on Pres. Obama?

    1. I love that craigs list equates the removal of ads for prostitution with “censorship”

      Does the meaning of the word magically change when what’s being censored is disapproved of by Anon #4?

      Enlighten me; if it’s not censorship, then what is it, exactly?

      Censorship does not imply or require hypocritical moral judgments, numbnut. We censored mail in WWII to keep troop movements secret, for example, not because we thought the soldiers were selling their bodies.

  3. Wait, are you saying I could have found prostitutes on Craigslist? I’m just hearing about this now? Oh great.

  4. I could understand the Communications Decency Act argument if they weren’t actively taking money in exchange for the posting. A ‘free to all’ online forum is one thing, but when there is a financial transaction it implies consent and approval.

    1. (1) To the best of my knowledge, Craigslist does not charge for the adult services section.

      (2) Accepting money for an advertisement does not even remotely imply approval and consent for that ad. I don’t even know where to start on arguing against that one. That’s just never been the case.

    1. You beat me.

      I’ve never understood the desire to suppress the advertising of illegal activity. Has catching slavers simply gotten too easy? Is this how law enforcement shrinks the pong paddles?

  5. I understand that this doesn’t actually solve the problem of sex trafficking, but I don’t see why Craigslist would have this section in the first place. Surely the purpose of the board was to advertise prostitution…so it doesn’t really make me upset that they decided to block it.

  6. I personally preferred the idea that prostitutes could advertise and not have to walk the streets to get johns.

    1. I understand how the casual user of Craigslist can be sympathetic to Craigslist and see it as the puretist attempting to interfere in the economics of the market place in the buying & selling of prostitutes. The truth is, that for the majority of people in the fight to close down this portion of the site is was/is about children who are trafficked (commercial sexual exploitation) on this site. In many cases the person who is providing the service is not the one posting the add. Grown men (mostly) are selling children for prostitution. That was the rub.

      1. …is about children who are trafficked (commercial sexual exploitation) on this site…

        I just browsed through about a thousand ads on my local craigslist’s erotic services section (not in USA, so not blocked).. Guess what, not a single child. I must have caught them on a good day then, I hear the section is usually 98% postings selling child sex slaves.

        Seriously though, I’m pretty sure I could look through the archives and not find a single underage kid, and I’m sure I could sit here and read all the new ads as they’re posted (about one every two seconds), but it would take me months of doing this all day to ever encounter a post offering human trafficking or child prostitution. I’m sure more child prostitution happens out of McDonalds than it does out of craigslist. Sure, one can say “won’t someone think of the children”, and everyone will go crazy and do lots of irrational things, passing overreaching laws, etc, but when you put it in scope, it’s probably less than 1 in 100 million posts. Sure, I’m definitely sure this has happened at least once, but the vast, vast, vaaaast majority of the posts on the section are for consenting adults, massage parlors, escort agencies, pimps and their girls, small brothels, etc.. everyday debauchery, nothing to get all excited about.

  7. Their terms of use includes not putting in “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person”, but when you look at the M4M personals, it’s wall-to-wall cock close-ups. If there’s one thing that’s pretty indefensible in court, it’s failing to uphold your own written policies.

  8. Craiglist created the adult services section to get the sex ads out of the other sections. Now that the adult section is closed down, sex ads will reappear in other sections. First in “personals” and later in other less obvious sections if they crack down on personals.

    Or maybe they’ve finally ended prostitution. Phwew, that was easy.

    1. Craiglist created the adult services section to get the sex ads out of the other sections. Now that the adult section is closed down, sex ads will reappear in other sections. First in “personals” and later in other less obvious sections if they crack down on personals.

      The problem is that even the personals—and other sections—are basically infested to the brim with robots and SPAM and not much else. So the big question to me is, is a place like Craigslist viable in a world where some Russian hackers aided by human SPAMbots in India and China infest any place with any interaction in any way?

      10 years ago, Craigslist was great! Now it’s just sad and somewhat useless on many levels. What’s the only section that gets real posts there anymore? Rants and raves?

      I think they should simply go to a pay-to-access model for all content.

      1. In communities that care enough about Craigslist, the SPAM isn’t overwhelming because people police it; same as every other online community.

        1. Most communities do care about Craigslist, but I find it utterly useless nowadays. Even if there is policing, that doesn’t control the audience attracted to Craigslist nowadays. Case in point: About 8-9 years ago I could put up an ad for simple household items and get real responses from real people who are local. Nowadays? Most responses I get are from loons and robots and general flakes.

          The problem is all the policing the world cannot change the fact that the place is not attracting the same nice general population mix it did before. Now thanks to SPAM, robots, pimps and scammers the place is unappealing.

          Is anyone doing a case study on how Craigslist went from being a magical place to a dysfunctional mess? It seems like a great thesis and I’m not joking or being sarcastic.

  9. Adult services could be things like nude painting or other arts involving nudity or sex acts that aren’t viewed as well, such as still and motion pornographic images, which are not illegal if all parties consent and are of age in the jurisdiction.

    That Canuck fellow said it best in the other craigslist article: The police couldn’t ask for an easier way to set up stings. But why catch the people doing it when you can exercise clout against the innocent.

  10. #1 – Don’t worry, 95.4% of the world, craigslist has only blocked that section for our puritanical friends in the United States. The rest of us are still good.

  11. And yup, the Beauty Services has “massages” offered by “Young Asian Girls!!” and “Tranny” and so on. Just want I want, getting the prostitution services placed in all the other sections of Craigslist.

  12. No amount of money can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution…

    It’s obviously much easier to pressure Craigslist into removing these ads than to come up with sane laws that legalize prostitution.

  13. I never understood the Craigslist’s apologists on this. There were listings of prostitutes, some underage, and this is not Craigslist’s fault? For Pete’s sakes, be responsible for your own shit, man!

  14. Huh–I’d never even looked at local Craigslist listings for my area, so I’m not sure what was there before the blocking. I do know that the local police department had implemented the policy of posting arrest photos of both hookers and johns publicly (and had gotten a little flak for keeping them up even if charges were dismissed or the perps acquitted). The funny thing is that there’s a city nearby that tacitly allows prostitution via several Asian massage parlors, and they’re still listed under “therapeutic”. So, business as usual, then.

  15. i’ve only used craigslist for buying and selling music gear. not much spam in that section, which is nice.

  16. ZOMG! It’s prostitution!

    If I post a personal ad that says “come fuck me.” it’s just a personal ad, and if I say “come fuck me, and bring me a mocha latte,” it’s prostitution.

    This scandal is as manufactured and over-processed s a Chicken McNugget. Craig’s List is an easy target for attorneys-general looking to pander to voters, and that’s the beginning and end of it. Look out! It’s sex! Look out! It’s the internet!

    “Alternative weeklies” like the Boston Phoenix have been running exactly the same types of ads since AT LEAST the 1970’s, complete with photos. Is that somehow OK, because the attorney general isn’t stupid enough to try shutting down a newspaper? Being printed on paper gives those ads some sort of special dispensation? The Phoenix is distributed for free to any adult or child that cares to have it, at convenience stores and sub shops all over eastern Massachusetts. At least Craig’s List asks you to verify that you’re 18 years old.

    This whole stink has nothing more to to do with prostitution than outlawing rock-and-roll in the 50’s had to do with Elvis’ vulgar hip-grinding, and will be just as effective, too.

  17. This is like turning on the kitchen lights, seeing the cockroaches scurry under the fridge, and thinking that you just saved on hiring an exterminator.

    Real lazy, real dumb, real american.

  18. Want to get really depressed? Read the “rants and raves” section. God, some of the vilest, most ignorant stuff I’ve seen. Makes me fear for my country. People posting racist cartoons, attacking, threatening each other. Makes me ashamed of where I live.

  19. Watch the audience shift gears and find another tag for “whoring” . . . I think “Recreational Vehicles” has an ironic ring to it. *LMAO*

  20. Craigslist used to give the money from adult services postings to charity, not sure if that’s still the case.

    And the only way to pay the posting fee was with a credit card, which meant the ads weren’t anonymous, which I would have thought made law enforcement types happy.

    And it strikes me that if Craigslist wanted to cash in, they could find a million more lucrative and tasteful ways than charging prostitutes to post.

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