A sheriff in Illinois has filed a lawsuit against Craigslist, the San Francisco-based Web site that provides classified ads, accusing its owners of facilitating prostitution. “Craigslist is the single largest source of prostitution in the nation,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said during a news conference Thursday at his office in Chicago. Dart is asking a federal judge to eliminate Craigslist’s “Erotic Services” section, where most prostitution ads are posted. He is also seeking reimbursement for tax dollars spent paying the salaries of officers who investigate and arrest those responsible for women trafficking on the Web site.Craigslist spokeswoman Susan Best said today in an e-mail that “misuse of craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable, and we continue to work diligently to prevent it.”Best added that “misuse of the site is exceptionally rare compared to how much the site is used for legal purposes. Regardless, any misuse of the site is not tolerated” and that the Web site “has a long history of cooperation with law enforcement.”Craigslist gets more than 9 billion overall viewings monthly, and erotic services is the most visited section, according to the sheriff’s office.Dart said although Craigslist does not directly profit from the erotic services posts, because the Web site charges for some ads, such as job postings, and bases its fee on overall traffic, it “facilitates prostitution, then ultimately makes a profit from it. In November, Craigslist settled a lawsuit with 40 states about its erotic services section. Under the agreement, the Web site now requires posters in the section to give a working phone number and pay a small fee with a valid credit card. The fee is then donated to charity.Craigslist also committed to employing electronic screening to identify and eliminate inappropriate content, and meeting with authorities on a regular basis to discuss ways to make the site safer, according to the
Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in a statement shortly after the settlement that “preventing site misuse and improving public safety are our highest priorities and we are appreciative of the encouragement we’ve received from the attorney generals. However, Dart said the new policies have had only small effects on the amount of postings, and that users are working around the requirements by using stolen credit cards or posting ads in new sections. Last year an FBI sex-ring investigation found more than 2,800 child prostitution ads had been posted on Craigslist, according to the sheriff’s office. “Pimps are preying on the most vulnerable members of our society and taking advantage of our struggling economy,” Dart said. “The worst part is Craigslist’s owners know their Web site is still being used for illegal purposes and they’re doing nothing to stop it.”
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