Craigslist Drops Licentious Ads for Adults

Dennis Faas's picture

After a long-running battle in both courtrooms and the media, classified advertising site Craigslist has dropped its specialized services for adults, often seen as a front for licentious offerings. But it's unclear if it will be a permanent move and, if so, whether it will make any real difference.

For several years, Craigslist had faced legal challenges over claims that many of those advertising in the section were, explicitly or otherwise, offering immoral acts in trade for money. The issue caught the attention of legal officials across the country, leading to a variety of court cases.

Internet Advertisers Charged Fee

At one point in 2008 the site agreed to a deal by which it would impose special rules on the section, demanding advertisers pay a small fee, which was then donated to charity.

The main purpose of the fee was to make sure the site had a registered credit card and phone number on record to make it easier for the authorities to track down an advertiser where they suspected an offense was being committed.

Publisher or Participant?

That didn't stop the legal wranglings, with the main point of contention being whether Craigslist was legally responsible for the content of advertisements and, by publishing them, was actually engaged in the solicitation process.

However, it was moral rather than legal matters which appear to have been the deciding factors. The site's image took a major blow with a recent letter to the Washington Times by two women who claimed that they had been forced into the skin trade as children and that they had been forced to place adverts on Craigslist, from which most of their clients came.

Craigslist Section Now "Censored"

Although Craigslist has yet to publicly comment on the issue as of Monday morning, it has now replaced the link to the licentious section with the word "censored" on a black background. (Source:

One theory is that the site doesn't intend to keep the section closed permanently and is simply trying to get publicity for its viewpoint that while there's a moral debate, it has the law on its side. If that is the case, the problem is that it may now find it difficult to reopen the section without attracting even more criticism. (Source:

Another issue is what happens if the block is permanent. There seems to be a good chance that those advertising immoral acts will either move to another listing site, or simply pick a different section of Craigslist: a possibility that has previously caused concern among those offering legitimate rub down services, for example.

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