Dec. 20, 2010 at 2:40 PM ET
Attention sex shoppers: Craigslist has closed the door on all its adult services sections, in every country in which it operates.
For the 50 million Craigslist users in the U.S., that door has been shut since September, when the online classified service yielded to pressure from a group of attorney generals from 17 states, who complained the site was passively facilitating prostitution and child trafficking. Some saw that move as a blow to free speech. But the site didn't capitulate without some petulance: slapping a big, black "Censored" label over where adult services used to reside in its "Services" section.
But now the exclusion of that category has expanded to account for all 700 sites in 70 countries where users upload to Craigslist, a according to Wired's Ryan Singel, who noticed " the unannounced disappearance of the section from the international versions of the site."
In some countries, such as Thailand, my native land, where I'm visiting for the holidays, therapeutic services may very well now be the go-to place for finding that extra something something. I clicked on a "5 Star Massage" which led to a link that looks suspiciously escort-like, with silhouettes of nude girls. Oh, and this small banner ad was probably a giveaway, too: "Undress her! Some are genuine escorts in Seattle!"
Also over in Craigslist Paris, "Young Thai boy for a sensual massage" also fell under the therapeutic services category.
This is really interesting though: Therapeutic services falls into one of only three categories that generates revenue for Craigslist, through ad fees. The others are job listings in 18 cities and brokered New York city apartments.
The removal of the adult services section altogether is the culmination of an almost three-year legal wrangle that began with pressure, again, from states attorneys generals, who in 2008 were able to coerce Craigslist into requiring users who posted in adult services to provide a working phone number and to pay a $10 fee. Screenings to vet adult services posts for illegal content came next in May 2009, using attorneys. Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said more than 700,000 ads were rejected by attorneys in that first year of manual screening "for falling short of our guidelines. Our uniquely intensive manual screening process has resulted in a mass exodus of those unwilling to abide by craigslist’s standards, manually enforced on an ad-by-ad basis."
In the midst of this, the adult services section was linked to the highly publicized "Craigslist Killer," Philip Markoff, who committed suicide in his jail cell awaiting trial for the murder of a masseuse he met through the site. That story has now been ripped from the headlines and made into a Lifetime Television movie, due to debut in early January.