How Much Is Craigslist Profiting From Prostitution?


In 2010, Craigslist is expected to pull in some $36 million from sex advertisements. However, since many of the ads openly sell sex – often with minors – human rights groups are speaking out against the business plan.

James Buckmaster, Craigslist’s chief executive, will not confirm the figures, which were calculated by the Advanced Interactive Media Group based on the number of sex ads in a month and the fees for posting such ads. They believe that Craigslist will more than triple their revenue from sex ads in the next year, and will most likely see a 22% jump in total revenue.

But, as the New York Times reports, this does not come at a very good time. Last week, the FBI arrested 14 members of the Gambino crime family on charges of pimping out girls aged 15-19 over Craigslist. And this is not the only example of Craigslist being used to facilitate crime. There was the famous case of the so-called Craigslist Killer, and there have been several examples of rape arranged through a third party in the “casual encounters” section. So far, most judges have ruled that Craigslist is not responsible for crimes committed through their website, which has allowed the site to continue offering certain sections and services.

In the past, Craigslist had donated all money that came in through the sex ads to charity, but a year ago they announced plans to keep the money. This decision has been met with a good deal of anger on the side of both police and human rights advocates. Many of the sex listings are for women or children being pimped out against their will, but because Craigslist has only agreed to monitor ads, and not outlaw them, they have been considered unaccountable for their user’s actions. Which is probably as it should be. However, now that they will be seeing direct profits from the poorly-disguised illegal ads, Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, has spoken out with some harsh words against the company:

“Craigslist has not given any indication that they are outraged and disturbed that their site is the primary way children are bought in the country. All they have done is made cosmetic changes.”

Buckmaster disagrees:

“Of the thousands of U.S. venues that carry adult service ads, including venues operated by some of the largest and best known companies in the U.S., Craigslist has done the best and most responsible job of combating child exploitation and human trafficking.”

Unfortunately for the victims (in the Gambino case and elsewhere), the “best and most responsible job” is still not good enough.

Sex Ads Seen Adding Revenue To Craigslist [NYT]

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