The biggest difference between Craigslist soon-to-be defunct "erotic services" and the new "adult services" sections will be human monitoring.
Craigslist on Wednesday announced that the Web classifieds site will do away with its controversial "erotic services" section and replace it with a new "adult services" section. The move comes after Craigslist managers were pressured by several state attorneys general to help remove from their site the posting of numerous ads for prostitution.
All the texts and photos within ads submitted to the adults section will be reviewed by a Craigslist employee before being posted, said CEO Jim Buckmaster in an interview with CNET News. With erotic services, Craigslist relied on users to flag questionable ads and also required those who submitted ads to use a credit card. The thinking behind the idea was that wrong doers would be less inclined to post ads if they had to provide identification.
The first thing the new changes will mean is that it should be much harder to post prostitution ads to the adult section. Filtering text and photos means that ads will also take much longer to appear on Craigslist than in the past.
"There will be a wait," Buckmaster said. "It's not going to be like the rest of the site where ads will go up in 15 minute or less. We don't know exactly what that wait will be long-term. It will probably be longer (than 30 minutes initially). New ads will only be reviewed during business hours. Ads posted outside of business hours will wait until business hours will resume."
Another major change will be the cost to post. Postings to adult services will cost $10, but once approved, will be eligible for reposting at $5. The cost to post to the soon-to-be banned erotic services section was $5.
Buckmaster and Craigslist's founder Craig Newmark have always prided themselves on keeping the site's operating costs down. That's why, for most of its existence, Craigslist has employed barely two dozen people to operate a site that services millions of people in the United States and about 50 countries. The site now has 30 employees. How many staff members Craigslist plans to add is still undetermined said Buckmaster.
Those critical of the state attorneys general who pressured Craigslist to make the changes, including AGs from Illinois and South Carolina, say that sex workers are likely to respond by just posting more discreet ads in other areas of the site. Buckmaster said the service is prepared for that.
"We're going to be looking for that," Buckmaster said. "We have blocking and filtering technologies in place site wide. And of course our flagging system remains fully in effect across all the categories, but we will be monitoring that situation."
Asked what kind of impact these changes will have on prostitution, Buckmaster would only talk about Craigslist.
"We're optimistic this will be the right balance," he continued. As always, we never consider our work to be done. We continue to evaluate all aspects of the site."
"What we're trying top do is strike a new balance with respect to all of the feedback from the concerned groups, including the attorneys general," Buckmaster continued. "Trying to incorporate all of that feedback and reach the best possible balance we're able to, is what we've sought to do with this new set of measures."