Craigslist has added “erotic services” as its third paid section (in selected markets) in an effort to crack down on illegal activities, such as child exploitation. The site will now require a nominal $5 fee, paid via credit card, to post such ads. The policies were developed in consultation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and law enforcement from more than 40 states.
Previously, the site imposed requirements that erotic service advertisers register verifiable phone numbers. It says abusive listings have declined 80 percent since the phone number rule was imposed. The site also warns that erotic service guideline violators will not receive a refund and their information will be turned over to authorities. All erotic services fees, whether or abusive or not, will be donated to related charities.
“No amount of criminal activity is acceptable, and as Craigslist has grown, we have become aware of instances where our free services were being misused to facilitate illegal activities,” said CEO Jim Buckmaster in a statement. “We are unequivocally committed to stamping out misuse of the site and to improving safety for Craigslist users.”
Most of Craigslist’s revenues currently come from recruitment ads, which are $75 in San Francisco, and $25 in Chicago; New York; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Portland; Sacramento; Seattle; and San Diego. The site also charges $10 for apartment listings in New York (an effort that has been described as another effort to crack down on listing abuse).
Meanwhile, a few comments on the Craigslist blog indicate disappointment on the alleged suppression of speech. One commenter predicted that paid sex listers will work around the restrictions. “Get ready to play Whack A Mole,” said “John.” “The erotic services people will now post their ads in other sections of Craigslist.”