Craigslist has removed the "adult services" section of its site, an infamous source of online sex and drug trafficking, after years of pressure from state attorney generals. The adult services site was replaced with the word "censored" on Friday. It is unclear if Craigslist took the action of its own volition or in response to a request or demand from U.S. legal officials. Here's the sordid history and what it all means.

  • Rising Controversy  The San Francisco Chronicle's Benny Evangelista writes, "The controversial Craigslist adult services section, which attorneys general in 18 states have demanded be taken down, has been deactivated and covered with the word "censored" for locations inside the United States. ... The San Francisco online classified ads site has come under increasing criticism form groups like the Rebecca Project for Human Rights the section is being used to advertise prostitution, especially with underage girls."
  • Craigslist's Policing Effort  The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler writes, "Last year, Craigslist instituted a manual screening system where each adult ad is reviewed by a lawyer for compliance with the law and Cragslist’s own standards before it gets posted. Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has said the screening caused a steep drop in the number of such listings making it onto the site. But the move wasn’t enough for some critics. Last month, 18 state attorneys general published an open letter to Craigslist demanding that it take down that portion of the site altogether."
  • The Craigslist Murder That Started This  Reuters' Deena Beasley recalls, "The [increased screening] move came after a masseuse who offered her services on Craigslist was killed and a client was charged with her murder. The man charged in the case committed suicide last month in a Boston prison cell."
  • Craigslist Was Wrongly Censored  TechCrunch's Michael Arrington writes, "the choice of words is significant – the section wasn’t simply removed, the censored word was used. The site has been embattled as old press and state attorneys general use any excuse to blame sex crimes on the site. From South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster’s failed crusade against them to a variety of press stories about sex and other crimes. If it’s just a sex crime it isn’t a story. But if a listing on Craigslist was involved, it’s a big story. Craigslist has fought back using little more than their blog and logic. And they’re right. Having prostitution up front and regulated, as Craigslist does, means less crime is associated with it. It’s not like prostitution, sometimes called the world’s oldest profession, was invented on the site."
  • Conan O'Brien tweets:  "Craigslist has shut down their adult services section. Looks like the 'used futon for sale' ads are about to get a lot more interesting."