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Craigslist sued over sex advertisements

March 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The Cook County Sheriff's Department in Illinois has filed a federal lawsuit against Craigslist.org, demanding the Web site eliminate its erotic services section and suggesting some of its ads are blatant solicitations for prostitution. Most people log on to Craigslist.org to browse the classified ads. For years authorities say prostitution rings have been using the popular Web site to advertise phone numbers for sex services. Law enforcement officials say Craigslist has now become the largest source of prostitution in the United States.

It is one of the most popular websites on the Internet, but Thursday Chicago authorities are busting Craigslist for supporting the world's oldest profession.

"Today we're announcing a lawsuit against Craigslist to ask them to do frankly what they should have done all along, which is to stop the facilitating of prostitution and to stop being the largest source of prostitution in America," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Sheriff Dart says Craigslist has been serving as a middle man for illegal sex services. The FBI reports that over the past year, thousands of juveniles have been exploited because of the Web site.

"We have arrested 16-year-old girls, 15-year-old girls, who have been posted on Craigslist, charged people with involuntary servitude," said Sheriff Dart.

Thursday, one teen told of her experience after she responded to a Craigslist ad seeking models. She said she was held against he will and forced to do things she did not consent to do.

"It's not worth it," said the unidentified teen. "It's not worth the pain that you go through."

Cook County officials say so far more than 100 people have been busted in Illinois and Florida for using the Web site to run prostitution rings. Last October, three women were arrested in Irvine for their ad for sex services under the erotic services section.

In response to this lawsuit, Craigslist issued a statement Thursday: "Misuse of Craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable, and we continue to work diligently to prevent it."

But authorities say that's not good enough. They now want the company to shut down their erotic services component and to pay for the cost of cracking down on Craigslist-related sex crimes.

"This is just blatant," said Sheriff Dart. "I mean, the pictures are at times showing people having sex."

Last fall Craigslist agreed to crack down on prostitution ads at the request of attorney generals from six different states. The Web site says it's been hard because there are companies out there that help people go around the site's offenses to post inappropriate content. Craigslist has since filed numerous lawsuits against those companies.


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