Craigslist may be the best known classifieds site on the World Wide Web but lately it's had a real problem with the world's oldest profession. Over the weekend it censored itself in an effort to eliminate prostitution from the site but the racy ads are already showing up on other parts of Craigslist.
Despite the bright blue links advertising everything from appliances to toys on the site, a black bar reading "Censored" is now attracting the most attention. It's Craigslist's eight-letter response to a letter signed by attorneys general in 17 states.
They called for the company to remove the "adult services" section of the site which includes thinly veiled ads for sex, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.
"Prostitution is not a victimless crime," says Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal. "Human trafficking results in tragedies to children and others, and Craigslist voluntarily, fortunately, is doing the right thing."
When asked why Craigslist would use the word "censored" on its website, Peter M. Zollman, an analyst at the Advanced Interactive Media Group says, "Craigslist probably used the word "censored" because they're trying to make a political statement."
After all, the law sides with Craigslist, says First Amendment lawyer Doug Mirell. "The Communications Decency Act says that essentially those who are simply providing a bulletin board by which others can post their content is not going to be liable for the content itself," he says. That content is big business for Craigslist, by some estimates potentially $45 million dollars this year.
Craigslist is no stranger to controversy. The so-called "Craigslist killer" allegedly found his victims by trolling through sex ads on the site.
"As Craigslist shut down adult services, the ads migrate elsewhere," says Zollman.
And a quick search reveals that some ads are still on the site. In the beauty section there's an offer for "sensual massage."
Craigslist did not reply to a request for an interview but on a company blog the chief executive wrote that Craigslist is "committed to…aggressively combating…violent crime." The question remains: Does removing the link really combat anything at all?