Craiglist's "adult services" section has been shut down in the U.S., but prostitution on the Internet is alive and well — even, quite possibly, on Craigslist.
Users of the website and its CEO grouse that the Internet and other media are still full of outlets where people can find prostitutes. As for the massive online classifieds site itself, many of the personal ads that remain on the site appear to be thinly veiled solicitations of sex for sale.
State attorneys general had pressed Craigslist to do more to block potentially illegal ads promoting prostitution, and hailed the company's decision to take down its adult services section on Saturday. But like other illegal online activities targeted with prosecution or lawsuits, including gambling, child pornography and unauthorized music downloads, shutting down one outlet simply sends many users running to others.
John Palfrey, a Harvard University law professor and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said the move from Craigslist was still a victory because it moved the ads off a highly visible location.
"Will people be able to find these ads online? The answer is almost certainly," he said. "Will they be able to find these on legitimate sites? I think the answer is probably not."
It's unclear if the shutdown is permanent; a black bar reading "censored" remained in place on the company's U.S. pages late Sunday. Erotic services ads on non-U.S. sites were still active. Neither Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster nor a company spokeswoman responded to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment on Sunday.
Craigslist had tried to police the postings on its adult services page by requiring all the ads to be vetted and approved. The section carried ads for a variety of erotic services, including personal massages and a night's companionship, which critics say veered into prostitution.
As Craigslist users complained in postings Sunday, some rattled off the names of other sites where they could find the same services.
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