Craigslist Clarifies: It Wants to Be Paid to Get You Laid

Here's the backwards result of the legal crusade against Craigslist: The site never used to make money from its "erotic services" ads. But the service tells Valleywag that it's now planning to profit from porn.

Earlier today, several attorney generals announced that Craigslist would be ending their "erotic services" category. But in the first statement on the change from the company, which was forwarded to us by Craigslist spokesperson Susan MacTavish Best, the new "adult services" forum Craigslist is planning to replace it with will be an entirely for-profit venture. In the old "erotic services" category, Craigslist had charged sex workers a fee for phone verification, but donated all of the proceeds, after costs, to charity.

Here's Craigslist's explanation of the move (emphasis added):

Note: Our announced intention to contribute 100% of net revenues for the "erotic services" category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding criticism questioning our good faith in this regard. However, in light of today's changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation regarding how revenue from the "adult services" category will be used. Our commitment to philanthropy remains however, and craigslist will continue to develop its charitable initiatives.

So, our elected officials, in their effort to find a scapegoat for crimes against sex workers like the murder of Julissa Brisman, have taken a site that never made a dime from the hookups it helped set up, and turned it into a full-time, for-profit sex money machine. You know, like the alt-weekly newspapers littering town. Progress!

Here's the full statement from Craigslist:

STRIKING A NEW BALANCE

As of today for all US craigslist sites, postings to the "erotic services" category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed.

Also effective today for all US sites, a new category entitled "adult services" will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers. Each posting to this new category will be manually reviewed before appearing on the site, to ensure compliance with craigslist posting guidelines and terms of use. New postings will cost $10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5.

Unsurprisingly, but completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic journalism we've seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole.

The relative safety of craigslist compared to print classifieds is likely due to some combination of:

* Measures such as blocking, screening, and telephone verification
* Community moderation via flagging system
* Electronic trail ensures violent criminals are quickly caught
* Personal safety tips prominently posted
* Unusually high level of cooperation with law enforcement

Community moderation as exemplified by our flagging system is arguably the most successful system ever conceived for eliminating inappropriate activity from a massive internet community. Working in tandem with various other protective technologies, it is an inescapable force to be reckoned with for anyone set on abusing free internet communications across a broad array of posting types.

However, with respect to this new paid category for advertising by legal businesses, we will experiment with some of the methods traditionally employed in paid print classifieds.

We'd like to thank everyone who has provided helpful input over the past few weeks, all of which we've closely considered:

* Our users, whose suggestions have shaped every aspect of craigslist
* Attorneys General, who have provided valuable constructive criticism
* Law Enforcement officers nationwide, who have been hugely supportive
* Legal businesses concerned at their right to advertise being questioned
* EFF and other legal experts defending free speech and Internet law

We are optimistic that the new balance struck today will be an acceptable compromise from the perspective of these constituencies, and for the diverse US communities that value and rely upon craigslist.

Note: Our announced intention to contribute 100% of net revenues for the "erotic services" category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding criticism questioning our good faith in this regard. However, in light of today's changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation regarding how revenue from the "adult services" category will be used. Our commitment to philanthropy remains however, and craigslist will continue to develop its charitable initiatives.