Craigslist: Criminals Will Get Caught

There should be no photos in the erotic services section of Craigslist, the Web site should screen for porn and people who advertise erotic services should pay for those postings, according to Connecticut’s attorney general. Executives from the site said people who use the site to commit crimes will be caught.

Days after the accused “Craigslist killer” was arrested, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is calling on action from the site said to have been the link between Philip Markoff, a woman he is suspected of killing and two woman he is believed have attacked.

Markoff, a med school student from Boston University, is accused in connection with the slaying of aspiring model and masseuse Julissa Brisman, 26, who was found shot dead in a posh Boston hotel room last week.

He's also been accused of an attack on a woman at the Westin Hotel in Boston, and another woman in Warwick, R.I., both of which stemmed from Craigslist ads, police said.

"We were shocked and saddened to learn that a horrific crime like this had any connection to the use of Craigslist, and our hearts went out to the family and friends of Julissa Brisman," Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said.

“The Boston craigslist killer case shows again that prostitution is not a victimless crime. Prostitution ads and pornography -- easily accessed by children every day on craigslist -- are often associated with human trafficking, drug activity and child exploitation,” Blumenthal said Wednesday.

Blumenthal sent Craigslist a letter asking the site to take immediate action to combat persistent prostitution and pornography.

Buckmaster said Wednesday that people who try to use the popular Internet advertising site to commit crimes are going to get caught.

"That's been the case with nearly every serious violent crime that's been connected with the site," Buckmaster said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where Craiglist is based. "There's an electronic trail leading to yourself. So don't use Craigslist for crime unless you want to go to jail."

Specifically, Blumenthal wants to put an end to photographs in the “Erotic Services” and similar sections of its site and implement technology that screens pornographic images and pictures before they can be posted.

He also wants craigslist to offer a financial incentive, from the penalty proceeds, for anyone who correctly flags and reports prostitution advertisements or ads containing images or other material that violate craigslist’s rules and terms of service.

Under the agreement announced last November, Craigslist requires that people who post erotic services ads provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. The site agreed to provide the resulting information in response to law enforcement subpoenas, and to forward all erotic services ad proceeds to charitable purposes.

Buckmaster said the attention Craigslist has received because of crimes linked to it is partly a function of how heavily the site is used and the relative newness of the Internet.

"There are 50 million people using the site every month, and the site has facilitated billions of human interactions over its history. Compared to human society as a whole the risks of Craigslist are low, but they're not zero," he said.

Buckmaster declined to say much about how Craigslist is cooperating with authorities investigating the Boston case but said, "We make ourselves 100 percent available to them and provide them with any and all information we have that they may request."

Law enforcement officials generally ask that Craigslist not comment on what it's doing in specific cases, he said.

Buckmaster defended Craigslist's inclusion of the "erotic services" classification on its sites. He said users requested it so those ads would be posted there, where users can avoid them, instead of being scattered among other ad categories. He also insisted that illegal activity is "absolutely not welcome there."

He said Craigslist will donate 100 percent of its net revenues from those ads to charities, under an agreement announced last November with 40 state attorneys general, though he said figures aren't available yet.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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