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Craigslist to appear before House hearing on sex trafficking

An official from Craigslist will appear before federal lawmakers on Wednesday for a hearing on sex trafficking, following its surprising move one week ago to take down adult services ads on its classified Web site.

It will be the first time the firm addresses the topic of adult services and how online ads could be contributing to the trafficking of children and women. The San Francisco firm’s director of customer service and law enforcement, William “Clint” Powell, will be among several witnesses to appear before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

The hearing will address the role of online services in sex tafficking of minors, according to a source familiar with the committee's agenda.

The company has not commented on its decision to replace its adult services section with the label “censored.” Observers said the move was a political statement against pressure by several states attorneys generals for the company to stop the listing of erotic services that critics say has exacerbated trafficking and abuse.

The move has sparked debate over whether the removal of erotic ads can effectively help fight against prostitution and abuse. Anti-trafficking group Polaris Project says the popularity of the site has made it the “Wal-mart” of child prostitution. But others, including a researcher for Microsoft, said the containment of so many ads on one site could provide more clues for law enforcement on illegal activity and help fight crime.

Sex trafficking includes child sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and rape of a child. About 150,000 children are lured into prostitution each year, according to experts.

Lawmakers holding the hearing include Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), and Linda Smith, a former Congress member.

Panelists include:
* Francey Hakes, national coordinator for Child, Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, Justice Department
* Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
* Tina Frundt, executive director of Courtney’s House
* Nicholas Sensley, chief of police, Truckee, Calif. Police Department
* Suzanna Tiapula, director, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, National District Attorneys Association
*Deborah Richardson, chief program officer, Women’s Funding Network
*William “Clint” Powell, director, Customer Service and Law Enforcement Relations, Craigslist
*Elizabeth “Liz” McDougall, partner at Perkins Coie, LLP in Seattle

By Cecelia Kang  |  September 13, 2010; 5:22 PM ET
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It's mind-boggling that the government can shut down the Craigslist call-girl ads but it cannot shut down WikiLeaks, which posts classified national security documents.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 13, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Where are the hearings for the child abuse that pedophilac priests heaped upon young boys and girls? Why don't we have panels convening to consider the abolition of the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts whose leaders covered up crimes against children? Why only children in prostitution? and where do these statistics come from anyway? Who are these "experts"? If you check out the CATW website (Coalition Against Trafficking) you will see that they do not differentiate between child and adult prostitution, consenting or trafficked individuals... and why are the panels only considering the 'sex' trafficked victims and not the trafficked victims into domestic service or the male trafficking victims from Thailand (400 of them) who were trafficked into agricultural labor? Don't they count? Why is it that the media is so interested in stopping adult consenting sex work and not the numerous violations of human rights when it comes to religion and other forms of labor? Because you know that sex sells? But you don't accept that adults can sell sex? Why the double standard? Why does no one contact the numerous sex worker rights organizations which are founded and run by adult sex workers and ask us how we feel about this whole media circus? We are here, you know- and we read the papers and - omg- are computer literate and read the trash you write about us....

Posted by: normaja | September 13, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

This should not be a congressioanl show. Use pimp/prostitution laws to shut down the site and move on to ther matters.

Posted by: cadam72 | September 13, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Cadam72: Be warned; this is the internet, if you shut something down 10 clones pop back up, hosted offshore.

Claiming that Craigslist is legally or morally responsible for prostitution is akin to saying if a terrorist kills people in a building, the building's owner is responsible because without the location the crime would have been impossible. Or that we should shut down the internet because you can use it to access "illegal" material on [gasp] Craigslist. This is ignorance to the point of malice. Craigslist is not a pimp, but it is a road on which pimps (and anyone else) can walk. I don't know how to make it any clearer.

Secondly, why would anyone want to close down a computer database where idiot criminals post their illegal activities when you could simply use the information provided to CATCH THE ACTUAL BAD GUYS. These people posting this crap didn't just turn bad because Craigslist made it easier for them to advertise.

On a side note, prostitution is legal in NV for 21+, so a Craigslist ad along such lines would actually be legal and pertinent.

Sadly, your ill-informed opinion will be reciprocated in congress because politicians have no idea or perhaps simply don't care about what is actually going on and do whatever their advisers and lobbyists tell them to. These people like nothing better than to use misinformation, fear, and hysteria to win small minds and motivate them to vote.
Welcome to the game; the rules may be elusive and our pieces aren't the same.

blasmaic: Wikileaks is based in Sweden and not subject to US law. Craigslist is, but as I said before, shut it down and it will be reborn outside of the US and her jurisdiction.

Posted by: SnowhuouV | September 13, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it but Craigslist has not even been looked at by local police here. Child prostitution is an issue that does need to be taken care of. No I do not mean Craigslist is at fault. At most, get the owner of craigslist to give authorities everyones credit card information given when purchasing the ads. Take down the people who are involved in human trafficing. Why bring this news into the media and try to shut down this section without trying to put an end to all this nonsense. It will only be advertised elsewhere. It seems these sick $#@%s are being over looked in the big picture. Child prostitution and human trafficing whether it is adult or children is sick and they should be left to rot. I, myself, own an escort service and do not use craigslist so I could care less about this section being taken down but I do care that such filth is out there and nothing is being done about it, atleast nothing in the least bit helpful.

It was the media that gave everyone the idea to go on craigslist to do all this anyway wasn't it? I hadn't the clue about the site until the media got involved. Now we are warning the criminals that Craigslist is not a place for trafficking if by chance they put back up the adult section which I do not doubt they will. Why would they? They opened up adult section right before they had to close down the erotic section so everyone that advertised or went on their knew their would be a new section. It will be up again as soon as all this dies down. I can almost guarantee it. Now it will not be useful to catch these people that are human trafficking because they have been reading the news. Nice job! That is like having seven cop cars parked when trying to set up a drug dealer. Does anyone care that the people doing the crime is getting off scott free? My goodness, sometimes I think I should become a cop but it would be a conflict of interest with my present job. Lol! No seriously, these laws are set in place for a reason and why the owners of the site are being treated as criminals without any look into the real criminals is beyond me. Fine, if you want to shut it down but bust these jerks first!

Posted by: kyescort | September 14, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

It's not fair none should shut someones business down craigslist put Adult oviously so kids will not go on it it's not craigslist fault if kids click on( Adult) is the parents fault that they let kids under 18 get online with no supervision and you can't call it prostitution traficking because it's not on the street people can do what ever they want to do with there money there's nothing wrong with charging a person for companion there on there time just like a live in care taker anyways adult or sensored is the same thing leave craigslist alone...

Posted by: Jeff247k | September 14, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

trafficking is a global issue the tragedy in South Asia is where thousand of trafficked young girls and boys are sold into modern-day slavery. here is a compelling look into this dark, inhuman, and exploitative world and shows how each one of us can help to prevent modern-day slavery.

Posted by: yogesh_cu | September 14, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

While we oppose society's Moral Witch Hunt against us and laws that criminalize us, we are aware that escort providers must live in the real world. At it's best, that world disrespects and ostracizes us; at it's worst, it seeks to exploit and even harm us. is a site planned and paid for by a provider to offer a safe harbor from that world for my peers.

Whether your method of running your business includes being a "lot lizard", a "streetwalker", an escort working for a respectable agency, an escort working independently, an exclusive mistress who takes on only one client, or a dominatrix who specifically does not offer "escort" services, you are welcome here and will be treated with the respect often missing in the real world.

We believe adult providers can make the best choices for themselves without interference from law enforcement on the one hand nor do-gooders who want to "help" us against our will on the other hand.

If you need resources and support to run your business, you will find that here. If you choose to leave this business, we seek to provide you information on the best resources that can assist you transition to another lifestyle. We respect each provider's right to choose for herself.

We vehemently oppose all forms of human trafficking and child prostitution. The victims of these crimes deserve our compassion and support; those who exploit others in such a manner deserve severe punishment.

While much of this site is addressed to women, male providers are welcome also; our only criteria for membership is that you are a provider. All are welcome to read and use our site, but membership is for providers only.

Posted by: mrsrobinson1 | September 14, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Jeff247k---you've missed the point entirely. Shutting down the "adult services" section is not to keep underage children from viewing the section, it's to prevent children, and non-consenting adults, from being sold for sex on the site. Craigslist is directly benefiting from the sale of women and children for sexual services on their site--while they may not be the ones placing the ads, they earn money from it, making them responsible.

Posted by: kbrown20009 | September 14, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I can't beleive we still live in a world where we allow Hate Crimes. The Hate crimes against sex workers is the worst of all kind. We have laws saying Hate Crimes over ones race, religion or sexuality are not tolerated however we still show no compasson for the sex worker.
We also know that decrminalizing the sex worker, yet making it illegal to buy sex works. We all know there is a difference between porn and child porn and we have laws to enforce this.
It is also a shame we want to keep POLICING CONSENTING ADULTS, yet we have failed these women and children because we offer them no services, no safety, we have no concern that they may end up homeless and then be a bigger target for abuse.
We still allow law enforcement to absue these women during arrest and incareration. We rarely give pimps the 25 years for human trafficking and we spend TAX PAYERS DOLLARS on the THE WITCH HUNT AGAINST CONSENTING ADULTS IN PRIVATE.
We have all these sex adovocates that LIE TO THE MEDIA and make their entire living on donations to stop human trafficking, and yet I can only find one place in this contry that actualy helps these kids that have been exploited, which is
Why we can't give the sex worker the same SANCTION & PROTECTION under the law as all other citizens is WRONG. Why we keep trying to run these women out of our communties is WRONG, we know once they arrest these women, LE then calls her employer and landlord trying to get her out of their communities.
Everyday our children are being raped and murdered and we give the VIOLENT SEX OFFENDERS more rights than the sex worker.
1 out of 7 people in this country are living in poverty and many more middle aged women will be entering the adult industry because we are not willing to loose our homes and families just because you don't approve.
In Rhode Island indoor prostitution was decriminalized from 1979 to 2009, and the Craiglist Killer was caught because when he came to RI and robbed a women she reported it as she was not scared of being prosecuted, and was free to report abuse. We also know most women and children who are beng exploited are not being held at gun point and can come and go, but they have no where to go, and they can't call 911 and report it or they will be prosected.
Any tips about human traffcking can be investagted by simply knocking on a door and demanding the women/child come out side to tell LE hey are ok and not in the need of assistance and if not, they have every right to enter the premises and investigate.
Why we have allowed the sex worker to be raped and murdered for years with no concern til Craiglist is ironic especially when the newspapers have been running these same ads for years and made a lot more money than Craigist ever did.
Online adult ads give a sex worker, the ability to be INDEPENDENT, choose what clients she wants to see, and make a good living to support her family. Why Governor Spitzer was not prosected but the escort was?

Posted by: mrsrobinson1 | September 14, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Dear Jeff247k---
Why don't we also go after the yellow pages, newspapers, and alterative magazines tha have been running these same ads for over 30 years, they where making Billons every year until online news an advertising pushed them out of the market.
We need to seperate consenting adults from human traffcking just like we seperated porn from child porn.
It is not illegal for a escort to advertise for her time, by a hourly rate, it is up to LE to prove she has agreed to exchange SEX FOR Something of monetary value.
If we are so concerned about kids being exploited by does LE STALK MIDDLE AGED CONSENTING ADULTS, rather than policing the ads of young girls. We also know by crimnalizing the sex worker it makes it EASIER FOR PIMPS TO HIDE THE KIDS THEY ARE TRAFFICKING, and why are these pimps rarely given 25 years for human trafficking, and why do we still allow HATE CRIMES AGAINST SEX WORKERS, and once we find these kids being exploited why do we not offer them any basic services. Most of the money raised to help stop human trafficking is being spent on media coverge and not on the VICTIMS.

Posted by: mrsrobinson1 | September 14, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Kbrown: craigslist is not responcible for nothing that's why they put warnings the Internet is a second life anything can happen they should of sat down with the owner of craigslist and figure a way to catch the bad guys craigslist is not responcible for the bad guys. Or bad girls there's girl escorts too not just males

Posted by: Jeff247k | September 14, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Mrsrobinson:we just need way to find out if these girls are really 18 to work as a personal companion or a escort not just shud down there resouce for work, thats like saying oh one person messed up we all have to suffer how about we all work together not just start hating on somonels it really wouldent be fair it they shut it down because the bad people could still post ads for young kids anywhere on the Internet or offline craigslist is one of the place they chose to post you can't take away peoples freedom for bad peoples actions we just need a way to get the bad people and leave the good ones even if it wasent all about money people would still trade sex that's the 2things that's wrong with this world evil people and money and some people think they can take charge of everthing nobody Knos if bad guys are hiding kids you just have to pray and hope that's not happening onlygood God kno we can control peoples lives we could try to help peopl but we cant fully help them god has the position of power we have to let god judge who lives and who dies he's the one who gave us life

Posted by: Jeff247k | September 15, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

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