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Online sex ads market to reach $63 million this year, report says

The online sex advertising market is expected to reach $63 million this year, with Craigslist accounting for about 70 percent of that revenue, according to projections by research firm Advanced Interactive Media Group.

In a report released Wednesday ahead of a House hearing on the trafficking of minors, AIM calculated those projections by counting adult services ads and the money that sites such as Craigslist charge for their placement.

On Sept. 3, San Francisco-based Craigslist shut down its adult services ads in the United States amid pressure by attorneys general and advocates against trafficking and prostitution of children. Since then, AIM said sites such as BackPage.com have tried to pick up ads shut down by Craigslist, underscoring a challenge by law enforcement to stomp out the illegal online sex trade.

“While Craigslist has apparently pulled out of the business of prostitution ads, it’s still a lucrative field,” said AIM founding principal Peter M. Zollman. “There are hundreds of Web sites where prostitutes advertise, and many of them are likely to grow as the effects of the Craigslist decision play out.” The firm reviewed a dozen adult sites that post sex ads.

A search for sex ads on Google will easily turn up results. On BackPage, a site called AdultSearch.com advertised that Craigslist closed its adults services section and that “posting is easy” on its site.

The anti-trafficking group Polaris Project said Craigslist’s decision to shut down its adult services in the United States sent an important message to other sites that offering a platform for sex ads won’t be tolerated by law enforcement. Because Craigslist is the largest online classifieds site, Polaris Project and dozens of other organizations have targeted the site in hopes that other Web sites will follow its lead.

“I do think people on Craigslist are already aware of these other sites, but the message is that it won’t be tolerated,” said Andrea Austin, a program director at Polaris.

Craigslist spokeswoman Susan Mactivish Best said in an e-mail that the company was not taking interviews.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 15, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Google , Kids Online  
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