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November 06, 2008
McKenna announces agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal sex trade ads

“Erotic services” ads will require a phone number and credit card

OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced an agreement in which the online classified site will deter and crack down on inappropriate content and illegal activity in its “erotic services” section. 

The agreement among Craigslist, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and attorneys general for 43 states seeks to address crimes including child pornography, child prostitution and human trafficking.

“Craigslist offers some great benefits to the public, like enabling you to sell or buy used furniture,” McKenna said. “Craigslist is helping crack down on those who try to misuse its site for illegal activities such as child exploitation.”

Under the agreement, Craigslist will require that users who post erotic services ads provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. All proceeds from erotic services ads will be donated to charity. Craigslist will supply the resulting information in response to law enforcement subpoenas.

McKenna said the fee and phone requirements should reduce the number of illegal posts and provide law enforcement with a road map to prosecute violators.

"The criminals engaged in the sexual trafficking of children no longer parade them on the streets of America's cities,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC. “Today, they market them via the Internet, enabling customers to shop for a child from the privacy of their own homes or hotel rooms.”

Craigslist will sue 14 software and Internet companies that help users who post erotic service ads circumvent the site’s defenses against inappropriate content and illegal activity. Information about those businesses will be shared with attorneys general for possible civil and criminal prosecution.

In addition, Craigslist will deploy technology to assist NCMEC and law enforcement agencies in finding missing children and human trafficking victims. It will also explore technology to block inappropriate image uploads and better filter for code words and euphemisms for illegal activity.

Other steps by Craigslist to crack down on erotic services ad content include:

  • Attach “tags” to the erotic services section that assist parental screening software.
  • Employ “digital tagging” to identity and eliminate inappropriate content. Users 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.
  • Meet on a regular basis with the attorneys general to discuss additional ways to fight inappropriate content and making the site safer.

Since 2007, Attorney General McKenna’s Youth Internet Safety Task Force has been working to increase safety awareness in Washington and review legislation related to child pornography and unlawful communications with minors. The office’s new Internet Safety Web pages provide valuable information for teens, parents, educators and seniors.

Earlier this year, attorneys general nationwide reached agreements with Facebook and MySpace, in which the social networking sites agreed to take significant steps to better protect children from unwanted communications.

The following states signed the agreement with Craigslist: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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  Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432



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