Facing concerns that it's facilitating child prostitution, a representative of personals listing site Craigslist confirmed in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing Wednesday that it will not be reopening the "adult services" section that it shut down earlier this month after pressure from lawmakers.
William Clint Powell, Craigslist's director of customer service and law enforcement relations, said in the hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, that going after Craigslist would do little good and that "those who formerly posted adult services ads on Craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues." Still, he said, the adult-ad section will not be reopening.
He explained that he was providing testimony because CEO Jim Buckmaster had been unable to travel to Washington and because founder Craig Newmark "is focused primarily on his role as a member of my customer service team and has not been involved in the day-to-day management of the company for nearly 10 years."
According to Powell, Craigslist kept "adult services"--originally a section called "erotic services" that was modified last year--segregated from the rest of the site so that they would not be interspersed with its other listings, and so that it would be easier to keep an eye on legal and safety issues that may arise with the content, specifically to prevent crimes like child prostitution.
"To our knowledge, no other venue has adopted these best practices and, in fact, very few venues have adopted more than one of these measures," Powell's prepared statements read. "Indeed, Craigslist has been one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation."
In a separate statement, Craigslist legal counsel Elizabeth McDougall clarified the company's position that in forcing Craigslist to remove a separate section for adult ads, lawmakers would actually be hurting their own battles against crimes like sex trafficking and child prostitution. "In Craigslist, law enforcement and NGO advocates had a highly responsive partner that listened to and was willing to meet with all concerned parties, and worked collaboratively to develop and implement best practices for minimizing such harms in the context of adult-services advertising," she explained.
CEO Jim Buckmaster released a statement later on Wednesday in the wake of the hearing, and company executives have declined to be further interviewed.
"We are grateful to (Virginia Rep. Robert Scott, subcommittee chairman) and all members of the subcommittee for inviting representatives of Craigslist to speak at today's hearing," the statement from Buckmaster read. "Craigslist has long collaborated with attorneys general, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations, and other concerned parties in this regard, and we look forward to assisting the subcommittee as it considers the role Internet sites should play in combating domestic minor sex trafficking. Although Craigslist recently removed its adult-services advertising classification, we gladly offer our key learnings to the subcommittee and to all interested advertising venues regarding best practices."