Craigslist has confirmed the permanent closure of the adult services section of its site, which it restricted access to last week. In written testimony submitted to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on child sex trafficking yesterday, Craigslist’s director of customer service and law enforcement relations William Clinton Powell wrote, “As of September 3, 2010 craigslist has terminated its adult services section.”
Craigslist restricted access to adult services ads last week by placing the word “Censored” over a link to the section on its homepage. Any mention of the section has now been removed, however, and according to reports, Powell told the committee his company had “no intention to bring the category back.”
Craigslist removed the ads following pressure from 21 attorneys general, who argued the ads help promote prostitution and sex trafficking. According to Peter Zollman, founding principal of classified ad consultancy the AIM Group, Craigslist’s decision might appease government officials but it will do little to eliminate illegal practices, instead driving advertisers to Craigslist’s competitors. “Other sites are likely to benefit substantially from the shut down of adult services on Craigslist. Whether these ads are gone from Craigslist… they will be around on the Web forever,” he told ClickZ.
Powell argued the same point in his testimony, stating, “Those who formerly posted adult services ads on craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues.”
Powell also detailed the ways in which craigslist works with law enforcement officials to ensue the legality of its ads and the safety of its users, and implied similar security measures might not be matched by its peers. “It is our sincere hope that law enforcement and advocacy groups will find helpful partners there,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Zollman suggested the closure of craigslist’s ads and their subsequent migration to other sites could in fact exacerbate the situation. “Although [the section] provided an open marketplace for prostitution and other illegal activity, it also provided a convenient central location for law enforcement officials to find people who were engaging in those illegal activities. Now that’s gone,” he said.
A report issued by Zollman’s AIM Group yesterday suggested craigslist could stand to lose $15 million in ad revenue as a result of the closure of the category.