Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Illicit List: Crime and Craigslist

Craigslist's Response

Richard Blumenthal
Richard Blumenthal

In response to the publicity surrounding the so-called Craigslist Killer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asked San Francisco-based, privately-held Craigslist to take stronger actions to deter prostitution and other sex-related offenses on their various forums. Blumenthal requested that Craigslist disable images on Erotic Services ads, and hire extra staff to remove ads for illegal services. He suggested that Craigslist should fine users placing illegal ads $1,000.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster insisted erotic services represent just 1% of the advertising on the siteand he claims that nothing on the site can accurately be described as "sex related." While Craigslist has an "Erotic Services" category, sex-for-money ads are prohibited and can be removed from the site.

Blumenthal is baffled by this denial of the obvious. But a 1996 FCC acts means that Craigslist isn't held responsible for ads its patrons create.

Last year, Blumenthal led an effort that persuaded Craigslist to charge a small fee for all Erotic Services ads. These fees are paid by credit card, making it easier for law enforcement to trace advertisers engaged in illegal commerce. This led to a 90% decline in ads in that section, according to Buckmaster. The site also agreed at that time to donate money made from erotic services ads to charities; these charities have not been publicly named.

Erotic Services ad from
Erotic Services ad from
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley did not take part in that 2008 effort. She felt the deal implied that the states condoned the illegal activity still advertised on the site. She has noted that Craigslist cooperated with her on several cases when she served as a district attorney, though she still maintains that the site enabled illegal activity.

Site founder Craig Newmark has largely deferred to his public relations staff and to Mr. Buckmaster. In an interview with ABC News, Newman claimed he spends hours policing the site for illegal ads, and he declared, "I'm spending a great deal of time here fighting bad guys." He used that phrase, "bad guys," throughout the interview.

Mark P. Lagon, executive director of the Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to stopping child trafficking, says that Craigslist remains a major part of the sex trade.

And the Boston Craigslist Killer case is certainly not the first time the site's shady transactions have led to murder.


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