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Craigslist founder defends 'erotic' listings

Masseuse murder microscope

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There's only a few PR predicaments worse than having a sensationalized killing named after your business*. Yet, despite intense coverage of the so-called "Craigslist murder," Craig Newmark - founder of the popular online classified service - says there's no plans to shutter the site's "erotic services" section.

Newman told ABC News on Friday evening he disagrees with claims that the site facilitates prostitution. Responding to recent criticism from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, he said the site already has measures to let users flag "inappropriate" material for removal.

Last week, Blumenthal publicly advocated a series of new "strong and specific" measures to fight prostitution and pornography on Craigslist. The proposed changes include eliminating photographs in the "erotic services" section, hiring of staff to screen for images and ads that violate the site's terms of service, charging a "significant" fee to those who post a listing that violates the TOS, and offering a portion of that fine to anyone who correctly flags and reports an ad for prostitution.

The site's erotic services section is once again gone under the public microscope after the arrest of a 22-year-old Boston University medical student Philip Markoff, accused of murdering masseuse Julissa Brisman after arranging a meeting on Craigslist. Markoff is also charged with robbing another masseuse he met on Craigslist in a separate attack.

Craigslist is also involved in a federal lawsuit filed by the Illinois Sheriff Department in March, which claims the enormous amounts of prostitution solicitations on the site strains the department's ability to enforce the law.

The site has taken some action against stifling classifieds-of-ill-repute months earlier by requiring phone verification and credit card authorization for all erotic services listings. Craigslist boasted the changes prompted a "spectacular" 95 per cent drop in erotic listings in recent months.

Of course, most criticism of the site's "erotic services" listings seem to ignore that risks of meeting a stranger from the internet isn't necessarily tied with any "erotic" dealings. For example, in 2007, a Minnesota woman was shot to death after being lured by a Craigslist advertisement for a baby sitter. But apparently, folks figure that since sex and murder are "sinful" both most must be related.

There's a few folks trying to advocate a boycott of Craigslist until the site shuts down its "erotic services" listing – perhaps assuming the issue will simply go away if Craigslist removes it, rather than forcing it to another site that requires even less accountability of its users. ®

*Conversely, having a disease named after you is an honor. Go figure.

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