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Craigslist: no plans to revive adult ads in US

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Craigslist has no plans to reopen its adult services section in the United States amid pressure from law enforcement and prostitution opponents.

The world's biggest classified website finally broke that news to the world on Wednesday, almost two weeks after it shuttered the category on pages served to US-based visitors. For a while, the word “censored” emblazoned in black appeared where the link had been. Even after the sign was removed, representatives refused to say if the closure was permanent.

Craigslist has long defended the adult services category, which was reportedly projected to rake in more than $40m in revenue this year. Officials say site employees give police credit card information and other user data of users suspected of crimes and manually screen ads for prostitution and child endangerment.

At a US House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on child sex trafficking, Craigslist's Director of Customer Service and Law Enforcement Relations William Clinton Powell continued to strike a defiant tone, warning that the shuttering may do more harm than good.

“To our knowledge no other venue has adopted these best practices, and in fact very few venues have adopted more than one of these measures,” he told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in a written statement (PDF). “Indeed, Craigslist has been one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation.”

Powell said that human traffickers may benefit as ads inevitably move to other forums that are more lax.

The news came the same day that prosecutors in Boston said they would drop charges against a man accused of killing a prostitute he found on Craigslist on account he committed suicide.

The controversy has underscored the debate over online free speech and the role of websites in facilitating crime. Federal law immunizes sites for content posted by its users. Largely lost in the war of words is the thriving “Erotic Services” sections offered on Craigslist London and indeed on virtually every other version of the site outside of the US. ®

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