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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Shanetta J. Paskel, 410-576-7939
spaskel@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Announces Agreement With Craigslist
Website to Crack down On Erotic Services Ad Content

BALTIMORE, MD (November 6, 2008) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced that he and 42 other states have reached an agreement with Craigslist under which the online classified ad website will take action to deter and crack down on inappropriate content and illegal activity in its erotic services section. Also joining in this agreement is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Under the agreement, Craigslist will require that posters of erotic services ads give a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. The site will provide the resulting information in response to law enforcement subpoenas. All proceeds from erotic services ads will be donated to charity. The fee and phone requirements should significantly reduce the number of erotic services posts for illegal activity and provide law enforcement with a road map to prosecute violations of law.

Craigslist has also committed to sue 14 software and Internet companies that for a fee help erotic service ad posters circumvent the website’s defenses against inappropriate content and illegal activity. The site will provide the attorneys general with information about those businesses for possible civil and criminal prosecution. In addition, Craigslist will deploy search technology that it developed to assist NCMEC and law enforcement agencies in identifying missing persons, children and victims of human trafficking. It will also explore technology to block inappropriate image uploads and better filter for code words and euphemisms for illegal activity.

“This agreement represents an important step forward in keeping dangerous and illegal elements from interfering with the benefits and convenience of the Internet,” Attorney General Gansler said. “Innovation and collaboration between law enforcement and technology is crucial if we are going to stay ahead of criminals who use the Internet to exploit children or to engage in other illegal activity. ”

"The criminals engaged in the sexual trafficking of children no longer parade them on the streets of America's cities. Today, they market them via the Internet, enabling customers to shop for a child from the privacy of their own homes or hotel rooms,” said Ernie Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCMEC. “We are honored to join the Attorneys General, and Craigslist in this historic agreement to combat child prostitution advertisements and other illegal activity."

Other steps by Craigslist to crack down on erotic services ad content include:

  • Attach “tags” to the erotic services section that assist parental screening software;
  • Employ “digital tagging” to identity and eliminate inappropriate content. Users can flag ads that violate Craigslist’s terms of service, which include prohibitions on pornography and criminal activity. Ads that reach a certain threshold of “flags” will be automatically eliminated.
  • Meet on a regular basis with the attorneys general to discuss additional ways to fight inappropriate content and to make the site safer.

Craigslist created its erotic services section because prostitutes were placing ads on other parts of the site. The agreement allows Craigslist to continue keep such ads segregated, while making it easier for law enforcement to monitor and crack down on Internet-based prostitution, human trafficking and child exploitation.

 

 

   

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