Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that Connecticut and 39 other states have reached an agreement with Craigslist under which the online classified ad website will act to deter and crack down on prostitution ads in its erotic services section.
Blumenthal led the multistate effort and negotiated the agreement, which the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is joining.
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.
Blumenthal said, "Requiring phone numbers, credit cards and identifying details will provide a roadmap to prostitutes and sex traffickers -- so we can track them down and lock them up. Information is a powerful disincentive and disinfectant to purveyors of illegal sex. Prostitutes will hopefully stop using Craigslist to break the law, knowing that their posts could lead to arrest and conviction.
"We need to track down and crack down on illicit sex on Craigslist and deter such ads to make the Internet safer. Craigslist will also explore new technology -- better filters and blocking -- to screen out and stop ads for illegal activity."
Craigslist also committed to sue 14 software and Internet companies that 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 the 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 filters for code words and euphemisms for illegal activity.
Blumenthal added, "Commendably, Craigslist acknowledged and addressed this problem and agreed to safeguards that better protect children and help stop sex trafficking. Its commitment to sue unscrupulous companies should help halt criminal activity. Its search software will help law enforcement and NCMEC track down and rescue exploited children.
"We'll continue to fight illicit and illegal activity on the Internet, especially threatening the safety and wellbeing of children. The dark side of Internet must be stopped from eclipsing its immense potential for good," Blumenthal said.
NCMEC President and Chief Executive Ernie Allen said, "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. We are honored to join with Attorney General Blumenthal, 39 other state 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:
- Attaching digital "tags" to the erotic services and adult sections of the site that help parental screening software block access;
- Employing electronic screening to identity and eliminate inappropriate content. Users will be able to 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.
- Meeting on a regular basis with the attorneys general to discuss additional ways to fight inappropriate content, illegal activity and making the site safer.
Other states signing the agreement are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Also joining the agreement are the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.