No, I am not making this up.
The New York Times reports that law enforcement is cracking down on prostitution via Craigslist.com. Craigslist is a huge classified advertising site used mostly for selling personal items and finding jobs. But law enforcement around the United States is looking at the prostitution activity on Craigslist. Some police departments have even gone so far as to place decoy advertisements to catch those shopping for sex.
In Nassau County, New York, there have been over 70 arrests since the police began monitoring Craigslist last year. Richard McGuire, Nassau’s assistant chief of detectives said:
“Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest.”
A sting operation in Cook County, Illinois in July got 43 prostitutes from the streets and 60 prostitutes who advertised on Craiglist. A police ad on Craigslist in Seattle got 71 men arrested in November. An ad posted for 3 days in Jacksonville, Florida got 33 men arrested.
Advertising for prostitution on the internet is apparently very popular. On only one day in the New York region, 9,000 listings were added to Craigslist’s “Erotic Services” category. Craiglist says they can’t possibly monitor the over 20 million ads per month that get placed on their sites. However, if users of the sites flag an ad as objectionable, administrators will remove it.
It seems Craigslist is protected from illegal activity advertised there:
Experts say that under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, the ads are legal and Web site owners are exempt from responsibility for content posted by users. Craigslist, for example, last fall won dismissal of a suit that alleged housing discrimination in ads posted on its Web site. “You hold the speaker liable, not the soapbox,” explained Kurt B. Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group based in San Francisco.
Craigslist is apparently so attractive to prostitutes because it is so easy and has so many readers. The company reports that it has listings for 450 cities around the world, 25 million users, and 8 billion page views per month.