States demand details from Craigslist on screening adult services section

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 7:52 p.m. CDT

HARTFORD, Conn. — Attorneys general from seven states  — including Missouri — on Tuesday asked online classified site Craigslist for details on how it will keep pornography and prostitution off its newly created "adult services" section.

The attorneys general made the request nearly two weeks after Craigslist agreed to eliminate its "erotic services" ads, a change prompted by intense scrutiny after a Boston man was charged with killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist's online classifieds.

"It's a step forward, but we need to know what specific measures Craigslist is using," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "How many people are assigned to do the manual review of these ads? How many ads have been eliminated? What criteria have been used?"

San Francisco-based Craigslist has not prescreened ads in the past, but says postings in its new "adult services" section are reviewed before being posted.

Besides Blumenthal, attorneys general from Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mississippi and New Hampshire — all of whom sit on an executive committee of a nationwide task force against online prostitution — signed the letter.

Blumenthal said the group is also monitoring at least three other classified ad Web sites and tracking individual ads.

"Clearly Craigslist can be a model because it's the biggest, it's one of the first and best known of all the classified ad sites," Blumenthal said. "But we're not picking on Craigslist. We want all sites to reflect the higher standards and steps that can be taken to eliminate pornography and prostitution."

A Craigslist attorney and public relations firm did not immediately return requests for comment.

Authorities have expressed concern about the adult ads in the past, but the criticism grew more pointed after a Boston-area man was accused of the April 14 death of a woman who advertised on Craigslist. Police believe 22-year-old Philip Markoff may have been involved in other crimes against women who also posted ads on Craigslist.

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