Craig Refuses to Shut Down Erotic Services Craigslist Section

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Craig Newmark, the San Francisco-based founder of the Craigslist want-ad site, is reportedly refusing pressure to shut down his site's Erotic Services section in light of an alleged murder where the victim advertised there, according to a story in the Huffington Post.

Philip Markoff, a Boston University medical student, is charged with killing Julissa Brisman, a 25-year-old masseuse, on April 14 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel. He also is charged in a robbery at a nearby hotel of another masseuse police say he met through the Craigslist classified ads Web site.

Newmark was requested by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to eliminate photographs in the "erotic services" section, hire staff to screen images and ads that violate the site's terms of service, and fine users who violate those terms.

If the name "Blumenthal" sounds familiar, it should. He's been involved in any number of cases involving sexual predators and the Internet. Earlier this year, he subpoenaed MySpace to find the number of sexual predators there. He also responded angrily to a study indicating that the issue of sexual predators on the Internet was vastly overstated.

Late last year, Craigslist came to an agreement with 40 attorneys general -- which may or may not have included Blumenthal, but it's a good bet -- to help reduce prostitution on the site. In March, 2008, the organization implemented a telephone verification system for the "erotic services" section of the site, requiring a working phone number for advertisers, and enabling blacklisting of phone numbers for those who post inappropriate ads. Phone verification resulted in an 80% reduction in ad volume, and significantly increased compliance with site guidelines, Craigslist said.

In addition, Craigslist began requiring credit card verification and a small fee per ad for posting in "erotic services," to further encourage compliance with site guidelines, removing paid ads that violated site guidelines.

Ironically, Markoff's prosecutors are also using Craigslist -- they have placed an ad in an attempt to find other women who may have been victimized by him.

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