Some who are at a loose end will find it odd to wake up to a Labor Day weekend and discover that the Adult Section on Craigslist has been removed and that the link to it on the site's home page has been replaced with a black bar reading "censored."
Craigslist has long been the whipping boy for attorneys general seeking to control prostitution within their purview and perhaps also seeking to win the favor of certain members of their constituencies.
However, why the section should suddenly have been removed in such a dramatic way (the censorship is only active in the U.S.) is unclear.
The section was originally entitled Erotic Services. Its name was changed to reflect a new discipline, as, under pressure from attorneys general, Craigslist declared it would manually screen every ad in its newly named Adult Services section.
It is arguable whether the content of this new section truly changed. Some would say it was adult business as usual.
Recently, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark gave a troubling if spontaneous interview to CNN, in which he seemed unable to answer questions about whether the site was facilitating child prostitution. Then, instead of answering the specific charges, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster took to the company's blog to assail the CNN reporter's methods.
Perhaps it was Newmark's interview that led to 17 attorneys general getting together last week to demand the removal of the Adult Services section.
In a joint letter to Craigslist, the attorneys general said, "No amount of money...can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist."
It is surely, though, splendidly naive to think Craigslist would somehow be alone in providing a forum for prostitution ads. Whether they be local free newspapers or other sites, like eBay, there are plenty of outlets for services that some deem should be legalized.
However, Craigslist is in the unfortunate position of being high-profile and successful and has become a very easy target in what is a far more complex and nuanced issue than the attorneys general are making out.
I have reached out to Craigslist for comment and will update.