Pressure to remove the category ramped up this spring when a Boston medical student was charged with killing a masseuse authorities allege he met through Craigslist. It also comes two months after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart filed a lawsuit alleging Craigslist not only allows the solicitation of prostitution but had created what he called the "largest source of prostitution in America."
Craigslist attorney Eric Brandfonbrener, appearing in federal court for a hearing on the lawsuit, acknowledged the Web site is eliminating the "erotic services" category.
Brandfonbrener told U.S. District Judge John Grady that Craigslist is undergoing changes he expects to satisfy the lawsuit's concerns.
"My expectation is that it will be moot," Brandfonbrener told the judge.
Dart attorney Daniel Gallagher said he remained skeptical.
"They've made promises to attorneys general in the past," Gallagher said, noting that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had brokered an agreement with the site in November to crack down on prostitution ads after being contacted about several complaints about photographs depicting nudity.
"I'm not going to take their word for it, we want to see action," Gallagher said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the attorneys general for Connecticut and Missouri met with Craigslist officials last week seeking an end to ads they contend are advertisements for illegal sexual activities.
Madigan's office said Wednesday such existing ads on the site will expire in seven days.
"We're very encouraged that Craigslist is doing the right thing in eliminating its online red light district with prostitution and pornography in plain sight. We'll be watching and investigating critically to make sure this measure is more than just a name change," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
"This is a good next step but by no means is it the ultimate or complete solution," he said.
In a statement, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said, "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...
"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."