Is Craigslist Eligible for Immunity?


Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a coalition of 39 attorneys general have long accused Craigslist of furthering prostitution and human trafficking. Blumenthal’s May 3, 2010, subpoena to Craigslist has reignited the debate over the online bulletin board’s responsibility for prostitution ads posted on its site.

Craigslist is clearly fighting back. Its CEO, James Buckmaster, recently wrote on the official Craigslist blog, “As AG Blumenthal knows full well, craigslist [sic] has gone beyond fulfilling its legal obligations, far beyond classifieds industry norms, has more than lived up to any promises it made, and working together with its partners is in fact a leader in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.” This stands, however, in stark contrast to the picture painted by Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, who told the New York Times, “Craigslist has not given any indication that they are outraged and disturbed that their site is the primary way children are bought in the country.”

In a 2008 Joint Agreement between Craigslist and 40 attorneys general, Craigslist agreed to create new measures on the site designed to thwart ads for prostitution and human trafficking. It pledged to donate net revenues for the controversial ads to charity, and in 2009 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. Craigslist reported that phone verification resulted in an 80 percent reduction in ad volume and in significantly increased compliance with site guidelines.

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