Craigslist Under Fire for “Internet Brothel,” Erotic Services Ads

May 7, 2009

(ChattahBox)—With the recent lurid publicity and media frenzy surrounding the so called, “Craigslist Killer,” several states’ attorneys general are pressuring Craigslist CEO, Jim Buckmaster to take additional steps to prevent ads promoting prostitution services in the “erotic services” section of the popular online classifieds site.

The State of South Carolina has taken its distaste for Craigslist’s erotic services ads one step further, by threatening the site with criminal prosecution, unless postings the state considers pornographic or that encourage prostitution are removed within ten days.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster sent a letter to Craigslist CEO, Buckmaster claiming Craigslist “… knowingly allowed the site to be used for illegal and unlawful activity after warnings from law enforcement officials and after an agreement with forty state attorneys general.” Buckmaster met with 40 attorneys general last November, agreeing to tighten up the registration process to place ads in the erotic services section, including requiring a credit card, charging a fee and insisting on a working phone number.

However, Attorney General Henry McMaster doesn’t believe Craigslist went far enough to keep prostitution and pornography off the site, suggesting the site would be subject to lawsuits and criminal investigations.

Buckmaster has proven he certainly is mindful to the criticisms of the content in the erotic services section, by his implementation of additional safeguards. His changes in registration for the erotic services section will make it easier for police to determine the identity of posters who break the law.

Additionally, Craigslist’s Terms of Service are prominently displayed and prohibit illegal behavior. Craigslist also takes pains to immediately remove an illegal ad as soon as it’s discovered and fully cooperates with law enforcement in criminal investigations. The site also uses a key word filtering system, which targets words suggesting illegal content, providing Craigslist with another means to remove illegal postings from its site.

Is Craigslist legally liable for the ads posted on its site? Probably not, unless there is a change in the current law. Federal law under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects free speech rights and offers websites protection from liability for content posted by users. Section 230 recognizes the special status and contribution of interactive computer services, like Craigslist and provides broad protections from legal liability. There are also constitutionally protected rights of free speech at play here.

In a recent interview with ABC news Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark denied claims that the site “facilitates” prostitution and said he has no plans to change the “erotic services” section. Craigslist lawyers recently met with attorneys general from Illinois, Connecticut and Missouri, who are calling for additional safeguards of the erotic services section or just want it permanently removed. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan referred to the erotic services section as an “Internet Brothel.”

Buckmaster response to the attorneys general indicated Craigslist is sensitive to “shared concerns” about the site’s content and believes concerns can be addressed.” without compromising the quintessentially American values of free speech embodied in our Constitution.”

The state of Ohio recently jumped on the Craigslist hater bandwagon in a lawsuit against Craigslist by Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, making the bold claim that Craigslist is the “single largest source of prostitution in the nation.”

What is going to come out of all of recent attacks against Craigslist? Some fear conservatives may be using the media frenzy surrounding the “Craigslist Killer,” as an opportunity to impose censorship on Internet sites. Others believe, perhaps the Communications Decency Act goes to far in protecting Internet sites from liability. However, without federal protection, sites like Craigslist, which offer useful services to millions of people, would probably not exist.

Another issue to consider is the age-old existence of personal and so called exotic ads in various print media. Craigslist’s exotic services section is hardly a new concept. Take a look at many free weekly newspapers in most major cities and they are stuffed with ads for escort services and the like. Philip Markoff, the “Craigslist killer” who answered ads in the exotic services section, luring women to hotel rooms to rob them, and even killing one women, is also not a type of criminal unique to Craigslist’s Internet ads.

Such serial killers have existed as long as classified ads have existed. In simpler times, they were called “Lonely Hearts Killers,” and criminal history books are filled with the tales of such predatory killers. Take for example, the most famous case of Lonely Hearts killers, back in the 1940s, involving Raymond Martinez Fernandez and Martha Beck who lured at least 17 women to their death, from the pages of lonely heart club ads. They were both executed by electric chair for their crimes, on March 8, 1951.

The public continues to be fascinated with the lurid details of Fernandez and Beck’s want ad killing spree, leading to Hollywood movies based on the murders, including the 1970s movie, “The Honeymoon Killers ” and the more recent 2007 film entitled, “Lonely Hearts.”

And Fernandez and Beck were not even original want ad killers. We can go as far back as the 1800s to find another serial killer who used personal ads to lure women to their death; namely Henri Désiré Landru, who placed his own advertisements in the lonely hearts sections of Paris newspapers, promoting himself as a wealthy widower seeking a wife, only to rob the women and later kill them. He was executed for his crimes in 1922 in Versailles, France.

Nineteenth century killer, Henri Désiré Landru operated much the same way as our modern day “Craigslist Killer,” of the twenty-first century, the only difference being the Internet as the new venue for classified ads.

Craigslist, as history shows, did not create the existence of predatory serial killers who use want ads to find their victims. Such killers unfortunately have existed long before Craigslist and the so-called; “Craigslist Killer” came into existence.

So, you see not only is Philip Markoff a murderer and a thief, he isn’t even original, stealing his MO from a 19th century Parisian lonely hearts killer.



10 Responses to “Craigslist Under Fire for “Internet Brothel,” Erotic Services Ads”

  1. Topics about Craigslist | Craigslist Under Fire for “Internet Brothel,” Erotic Services Ads … on May 7th, 2009 2:52 pm

    […] Another fellow blogger placed an observative post today on Craigslist Under Fire for â […]

  2. Craig S List Killer | FTP2FTP News on May 8th, 2009 8:34 am

    […] Philip Markoff – Craigslist Killer – Julissa Brisman: Craigslist …(ChattahBox)—With the recent lurid publicity and media frenzy surrounding the so called, Craigslist Killer, several states’ attorneys general are pressuring.Read more […]

  3. Twitted by jilliancyork on May 8th, 2009 11:17 am

    […] This post was Twitted by jilliancyork – […]

  4. Richard on May 8th, 2009 11:21 am

    Like I’ve said before, the solution is quite simple. The Government needs to either – completely regulate the Internet, or shut it down completely.

    I propose we mass produce bubbles to live in too. Maybe then, we will stop trying to find something or someone to blame for everything.

    Richard @

  5. Craigslist Backs Down: Removes Erotic Services Section | ChattahBox News Blog on May 13th, 2009 5:11 pm

    […] a recent interview with ABC news Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark denied claims that the site “facilitates” prostitution and said he has no plans to remove the “erotic services” section. Craigslist CEO, […]

  6. Craigslist to SC Attorney General: Back Off! | ChattahBox News Blog on May 21st, 2009 2:58 pm

    […] McMaster’s threats are seen as more bluster than bite, because he essentially doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Craigslist and other Internet sites are protected from criminal prosecution for material posted on its site, under the Federal Communications Decency Act. […]

  7. johnboy on May 25th, 2009 7:32 pm

    It doesn’t matter if they crack down on craigslist or not. Don’t they understand that the prostitutes will just go to other websites? They are already going to sites like and

  8. StaciStern on June 13th, 2009 11:26 am

    Johnboy is right, you can’t stop escorts from advertising…

  9. jenny on October 17th, 2009 11:31 pm

    Sites like have grown so large and being hosted offshore there is nothing anyone can do.

  10. C.Nyle on December 23rd, 2009 1:23 am

    LANDRU committed his 11 murders during WWI or 20th Century.

Got something to say? **Please Note** - Comments may be edited for clarity or obscenity, and all comments are published at the discretion of - Comments are the opinions of the individuals leaving them, and not of or its partners. - Please do not spam or submit comments that use copyright materials, hearsay or are based on reports where the supposed fact or quote is not a matter of public knowledge are also not permitted.