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Craigslist Shuts Down “Adult Services” Section—But For How Long, and To What End?

September 8, 2010

After years of scrutiny and controversy, Craigslist has replaced its “Adult Services” section with a bar that simply reads, “CENSORED,” marking a significant change for a section once called, “Exotic Services.”  Some are championing this change as a victory over the rampant sex trafficking that would take place on the site. Others are unconvinced that the “censored” bar is much more than a gesture, and still others worry that human trafficking will be even harder to police as it moves further offline.  Some even contend that this is a temporary move, and that Craigslist will reinstate its Adult Services section as soon as the current controversy blows over.  [caption id="attachment_10038" align="alignleft" width="242" caption="Photo from Jezebel.com"]Photo from Jezebel.com[/caption] Politico’s Playbook addresses that last claim directly by citing a “top legal source” who says the “CENSORED” move indicates that Craigslist is indeed embarking on a gradual fadeout of the Adult Services page (Craigslist itself has made no statement beyond the censor bar). The question on everyone’s mind right now, though, is what will happen to the online sex trade if Craigslist does decide to shut down the section or, perhaps more accurately, what won’t. Though some are afraid this shutdown will barely register as a blip on the sex trafficking radar, Craigslist’s decision to render the Adult Services section moot could be a step in the right direction. What could make or break the effectiveness of the censor bar is that the issue of underground sex trafficking in the U.S. will slip from the public discussion, leaving the women and children who are exploited daily more vulnerable than ever.  Jezebel.com points out that sex traffickers will likely turn to posting on Craigslist’s Personals section or will turn to offline options, making the offenses much harder to police. Change.org applauds the fact that the sex trade on Craigslist would have seen a “drop in business” as a result of the change, but expresses concern that the stories of the victims of the sex trade will further go unnoticed. Both worry that other internet avenues for sex trafficking and indeed offline means of trafficking will slip even further under the radar, one publicly prominent problem having been solved. One thing is for certain – we cannot ignore the reality of human sex trafficking, both online and off. The victims of sex trafficking cannot afford our apathy, irrespective of the status of Craigslist’s “Adult Services” section. We must find new and creative ways to raise awareness about sex trafficking, and bring perpetrators to justice. What do you think of this contentious issue? Leave us a comment below to have your voice heard.

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