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Craigslist controversy follow-up: targeted, Post drops massage-parlor ads

It's now been almost two weeks since Craigslist spent a day under a Congressional spotlight for its now-ended "adult services" ads. Since the San Francisco-based classified-ads site publicly surrendered at a Sept. 15 hearing--saying the ads it once accepted would flow to other sites that made fewer or no efforts to screen out illegal activity like prostitution--it's largely dropped out of the headlines.

There have been a few follow-ups to note. Melissa Petro, an arts teacher in the Bronx, wrote a short piece for the Huffington Post recounting how she (no euphemisms here) "accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men" located through the site's adult-services category--then called (no euphemisms there) "erotic services."

The piece ends with a regret that Craigslist didn't keep up the fight and a wish that prostitution would be legalized. The debate over the site would have been more interesting had Craigslist said upfront that it should be legal for consenting adults to trade sex for money. (The discussion would have been more interesting had Craigslist said anything after the story broke, instead of hoping people would recognize what a nice guy founder Craig Newmark is. But I digress.)

After you read Petro's post, you should also see Michelle Goldberg's piece for the Daily Beast about child sex trafficking on Craigslist. It's ugly, arresting reading.

So where have those adult-services ads gone? One place to look, according to comments on my last post, in e-mail and in reports elsewhere, is Craigslist's own personals ads. Another is competing sites--some of which are now feeling the same pressure as Craigslist.

Twenty-one state attorneys general sent a letter to Village Voice Media's last week demanding that it close its adult-services section. The site responded in a blog post with many of the same defenses that Craigslist had made, saying it screens its ads and cooperates with law enforcement regularly and promptly. I don't know that it will fare any better than Craigslist.

Another publisher that has been criticized in the past for taking advertisements for establishments linked to prostitution just said it will now decline those ads. That would be my employer.

Washington Post Co. spokeswoman Kris Coratti e-mailed the following statement late yesterday afternoon:

The Washington Post will no longer accept advertisements for massage parlor businesses.
It has always been The Post's policy not to accept advertising from illegal businesses. Customarily, in making judgments about advertisements, we rely on local government licensing procedures and law enforcement actions to determine whether a business is operating legally.
In the case of massage parlors (sometimes called spas), we have required proof of a valid business license from the jurisdiction where the establishment was located. If we learned that a specific business was not operating within the law, we would discontinue their advertising.
We have been examining the policy on massage parlors over the past several years. Over that time, we have seen law enforcement identify a number of such businesses as being engaged in illegal activities. We have also been directed to postings on adult websites from customers of these businesses that refer to illegal activities taking place at these establishments. It has become clear to us that our existing standards needed to evolve. We have therefore decided not to accept such advertisements going forward.

You're welcome to discuss this issue further in the comments. What do you think happens next to the likes of Backpage?

By Rob Pegoraro  | September 28, 2010; 10:06 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture, Policy and politics  
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Completely off topic, but:
Looked at Cox to get costs so I could watch and DVR a couple shows I'm interested in. The added cost to my current subscription for the channels I want (and dozens I don't)+ crappy DVR=$50. Per month.

Apple TV $100, and about $25 month to buy the episodes I want, or $10 or so to stream them once, which is Good Enough. So I ordered the AppleTV. We'll see how well it works.

And it's already been jailbroken:

Posted by: wiredog | September 28, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I am very disappointed in the Washington Post for this decision.

It is not the responsibility of the post to police massage parlors. While some spas do engage in illegal activities, the Post's decision deprives legitimate spas of an outlet for advertising.

It is most certainly unfair for the Post to single out massage parlors while continuing to accept ANY advertisements, because I guarantee that any ad, whether for jobs, for houses, for cars, or for any other services, have the potential of having been posted by parties who are intending to engage in illegal or unethical activites.


Posted by: winterene | September 28, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for a company selling their services to who ever pays the bill. But I can also understand why companies(WashingPost/Craigs List) finaly say to hell with it. It's not worth the hassle. The bad publicity costs them more than what they make in the listings.

For those of you that don't understand this simple logic. You quite obviously have no state at all in the company and also do not run your own companies.

I would never lend money to people that support such activities and critisize companies that chose the best public position on situations like this. Why? You haven't a clue what it takes to survivie.

Posted by: LiberalBasher | September 28, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

they should have never taken the adult section off craigslisr. prostitution should be legal. human trafficking and sex slaves only ha

Posted by: aaronkleiner37 | September 28, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

the adult section should be lagal.human trafficking and sex slaves happen because prostitution is not legal.Loook at all the european countrys who have made prostitution legal.legalizing prostitution has made there country better.infact in one of the countrys the rape rate went down 40% after prositution was lagalized

Posted by: aaronkleiner37 | September 28, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

There are so many websites for this kind of activity.
Too bad there are so many men, and I'll assume women, that need physical contact, but are alone.
I can only speak as a single man that has seen his day, if all the single men and women would get together, there would be no need for these services.

Posted by: Rick2551 | September 28, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Stupid old fashioned laws should be removed from the books. I could care less if hookers use Craigslist to find customers.

Congress should find better ways to spend their time. This whole thing is just a transparent attempt to win fundamentalist votes.

Posted by: dontsendnofarkingspam | September 28, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

There is no logical reason why two consenting adults can't exchange money for services. There is no logical reason for those services to be illegal to sell, when it's perfectly OK to give them away.

Prostitution is a job, like any other job. We're your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your teachers, your bank tellers, chemists, nurses, executives, accountants... and if we get hurt or robbed on the job, we can't go to the police, we can't go to OSHA. We're just hurt and broke.

It's time to legalize (or at least decriminalize) prostitution, and recognize the difference between willing participation and trafficking.
And, yes, anything involving anyone under 18 should remain against the law.

Posted by: dontmesswiththemesser | September 29, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

When you go to work for 8 hours a day you are selling your body. You are prostituting yourself. You are no better than the sex worker.

Prohibition doesn't work. Didn't work with alcohol, doesn't work with drugs, won't work with sex. Consenting adults should be allowed to do what they want.

With regard to child prostitution, this drives it further underground and makes it more difficult to law enforcement to follow.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | September 29, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

It's refreshing to see a normal sane person like Rob Pegoraro calmly discussing the Christian Taliban's ban on nonmarital prostitution. There are so many bass-ackwards religulous people in this country, it gets tiring just to see their comments. The Congressional Taliban's Inquisition against Craiglist is just depressing. How long must we let those volcano-worshipping morons dominate our free Republic?

Posted by: Religulosity | September 29, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

The fact that there was child sex trafficking on CL is extremely disturbing. Even more troubling is that it will still continue in this country (and elsewhere). Please see my blog entry on this subject at and scroll down to "Something You Absolutely Must Do Today," the entry for Saturday, September 25. We all need to take the time to fight this scourge. And go here to sign a very important petition relating to legislation on this issue:

Posted by: AdrianZupp | September 29, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

This may not be on topic: Comic books were once affordable with circulation aplenty. These comic books had some amazing and affordable advertisements.
No such thing exist today because the business Greed has Priced all that to the stratosphere that a comic book is no longer affordable and probably with no interesting advertisements.
What has become of our ways of the past?
I guess it has been replaced with Business Greed, but blames everyone else such as consumers, manufacturers, and/or even foreign countries.
Artificial Inflation of the Price of Every-thing must cease or our economy will fall into abyss.

Very Importantly, the CENSORSHIP that exist in today's PC world will not make us better or advance into the future freely.

Posted by: SOCIETY1 | September 29, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

All this will accomplish is put more girls and their potential clients on the street and subject them to cold, heat, rain , snow, mugging, car fumes, bad drivers. It will also bring in front of little kids such questions as, why is johnnies sister in such tiny clothes is such cold weather, why is Mr. Johnson driving around,and around the same block, why is the senator getting in the back seat of the car with that young girl,she must have droped a contact, she keeps bending over in front seat.
Legalize it tax it, make it safe for everyone.

Posted by: cbcircustim | September 29, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Unlike Craiglslist, Backpages actually needs those ads inorder to survive as a business. Backpages will not be giving up that ad revenue for anything short of a Supreme Court ruling.

Posted by: TonyEnzo | September 29, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

If Styrofoam cups fetched $100 a piece there'd be an illegal trade in Styrofoam cups and someone would be advertising their availability. The sex trade has existed since antiquity, you are not going to stop it and human trafficking is only prevalent because human beings are still sick enough to pay money for another. Look up stats from IOM (International Office of Migration) sometime to see the scale of the human slave trade today in the 21st Century.

Airplane parts have been trafficked, remember when people were smuggling RAM out of Singapore? People are greedy and want a quick buck - Craig;s list is not the enemy, its just another store window in a long line of many. How many "domestic help wanted" adds wind up being something else, or "Personal assistant required", "aide to chief-executive" you could even extend this to gardener, tennis coach, personal trainer..where do we draw a line?

Posted by: Cysix | September 29, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Is The Washington Post going to publish my last comment or just censor any criticism directed at the paper?

Posted by: AdrianZupp | September 29, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Rob -- so you wish Craig had put up a better defense? Me too, I just wish you'd come out and say that clearly in your column. A few weeks earlier would have been nice, too.

Posted by: cgp01 | September 29, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

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