Attorney General: Attorney General Seeks Stronger Measures -- Including Financial Penalties and Incentives -- To Fight Prostitution and Pornography on Craigslist

Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Seeks Stronger Measures -- Including Financial Penalties and Incentives -- To Fight Prostitution and Pornography on Craigslist

April 22, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, in a letter today, proposed strong and specific new measures to fight prostitution and pornography on craigslist -- including steep financial penalties for rule breaking, and incentives for reporting wrongdoing.

"These signature steps can stop ads that lead to horrific brutal tragedy such as the Boston murder, as well as other violent crime, human trafficking or exploitation of children," Blumenthal said.

Prostitution advertisements and pornography remain rampant on craigslist, warranting additional action strengthening the craigslist agreement announced last year with 40 attorneys general led by Blumenthal.

Blumenthal asked craigslist to take immediate action to begin implementing several specific measures to combat persistent prostitution and pornography, including:

  • Eliminate photographs in the "Erotic Services" and similar sections of its site.

  • Alternatively, implement technology that screens pornographic images and pictures before they can be posted.

  • Immediately hire staff to screen for images and ads that blatantly violate craigslist's terms of service.

  • Charge a significant fee to the credit card of any individual posting in the "Erotic Services" section found to be in violation of craigslist's rules or terms of service.

  • Offer a financial incentive -- from the penalty proceeds -- for anyone who correctly flags and reports prostitution advertisements or ads containing images or other material that violate craigslist's rules and terms of service.

  • Implement identity verification technology for users that post in the "Erotic Services" section to confirm real names and addresses.

  • Disallow search terms that clearly are associated with the promotion of prostitution.

"Craigslist has the means -- and moral obligation -- to stop the pimping and prostituting in plain sight," Blumenthal said. "Like any bricks and mortar establishment, craigslist has the responsibility and power to prohibit prostitution, pornography and inappropriate behavior on its premises.

"My proposals are feasible and affordable -- including readily available new technology to block pornography and screen out prostitutes, along with financial penalties and incentive payments. Requiring telephone numbers and credit card charges for erotic services ads were good steps, but not sufficient. Pornography and prostitutes have diminished, but hardly disappeared -- an un-endangered species alarmingly alive and well in craigslist's erotic services section.

"Enforcement must be matched with prevention -- powerful financial penalties, charged to credit cards when users defy craigslist's prohibition against porn and prostitution. Proceeds can fund incentive payments to users who report wrongdoing -- encouraging all craigslist users to join the fight. Money is a powerful weapon, and incentive, in crime fighting.

"I appreciate and anticipate that craigslist will cooperate -- just as it agreed to preliminary measures six months ago with our group of 40 attorneys general to protect our children from exploitation and inappropriate material on the web.

"The Boston craigslist killer case shows again that prostitution is not a victimless crime. Prostitution ads and pornography -- easily accessed by children every day on craigslist -- are often associated with human trafficking, drug activity and child exploitation.

"Craigslist has responsibly assisted law enforcement officials across the nation. I am hopeful that craigslist will continue its cooperative spirit. In reaching a second agreement."

Under the agreement announced last November, Craigslist requires that posters of erotic services ads provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. The site agreed to provide the resulting information in response to law enforcement subpoenas, and to forward all erotic services ad proceeds to charitable purposes.

Craigslist also agreed to deploy search technology that it developed to assist law enforcement in identifying missing persons, children and victims of human trafficking -- and to explore technology to block inappropriate image uploads and better filters for code words and euphemisms for illegal activity.

In his letter to craigslist today, Blumenthal suggested meeting as soon as possible to address mounting concerns about prostitution and pornography on craigslist.

Content Last Modified on 4/22/2009 2:18:08 PM