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Craigslist cracks down on prostitution, illegal activities*

November 6, 2008 | 11:16 am

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

* Updated at 11:56 a.m. with comments from the California Attorney General's office.

In a pact with more than 40 states and territories, Craigslist is taking steps to prevent people from posting classified ads that can facilitate prostitution, human trafficking, child exploitation and other illegal activities.

The effort was spearheaded by Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal and announced today.

San Francisco-based Craigslist has been under increasing pressure to crack down on prostitutes using its site to troll for clients. Craigslist called the steps, which were taken in partnership with state law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, "sweeping." The company also said the measures were devised in face-to-face meetings between Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster, Blumenthal and representatives of the NCMEC.

Buckmaster said criminal activity is a very small portion of the tens of millions of legitimate ads posted every month on Craigslist. "No amount of criminal activity is acceptable, and as Craigslist has grown, we have become aware of instances where our free services were being misused to facilitate illegal activities," he said.

Craigslist prohibits prostitution and other illegal activities. It has filed 14 lawsuits and taken legal action against numerous companies and individuals violating its terms of service, it said. It also uses a flagging system to remove inappropriate posts. Craigslist also plans to add other protective measures such as charging a small fee with a valid credit card and requiring a working phone number for posts in its "erotic services" section. Paid ads that violate site guidelines will be removed without refund and the proceeds will be donated to charity, the company said.

The changes will take place across all Craigslist sites in the U.S., which together attract about 40 million visitors a month.

California was not among the states joining the agreement. "Californians are protected either way," said Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. "We didn't see an inherent reason we needed to sign on."

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal. Credit: Bob Child / Associated Press

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