Advocates fighting the child prostitution problem in Atlanta are cautiously optimistic about Wednesday’s congressional hearing targeting Craigslist. The world’s largest online ad service is sending William Clint Powell, the director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist, to answer questions from the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee about adult ads and the role that online services play in child prostitution.
“[Craigslist is] definitely the market leader in [prostitution] and as they go, others may go,” said Kaffie McCullough, campaign director of Atlanta’s A Future Not a Past. The group is fighting the child prostitution problem in Georgia with research, intervention, and education while pushing for prosecution of pimps and johns.
Under growing pressure from attorneys general across the country, Craigslist deactivated its adult services section in the U.S. on September 3, but the section remains open in other countries. Nevertheless, McCullough is pleased because the move has “already disrupted the usual patterns” of prostitution in the U.S.
Some feel that censoring Craigslist is the wrong move. A researcher for Microsoft told the Washington Post that Craigslist’s adult services section could provide more clues for law enforcement to help fight prostitution.
“We’re not under any illusions that prostitution will stop now that these ads are gone. This is about making it harder for it to continue,” said McCullough.
Deborah Richardson, Chief Program Director of the Women’s Funding Network, will be speaking at Wednesday’s hearing on behalf of her national group and Georgia’s A Future Not A Past campaign.
In terms of the hope that Craigslist will permanently remove its Adult Services section:
“I’m just fearful that they’ll do some sort of fancy dance because of profit motive. They make a lot of profit from this section. I just hope they’ll do the right thing.”
Craigslist’s adult services section accounts for about 30 percent of its overall revenue. This year, the site has made about $122 million and $36.6 million of that came from the adult services section, according to the AJC.
As jjie.org reported in June Craigslist tried to stifle criticism from A Future Not a Past, who revealed in a study that it was” by far the most efficient medium for advertising sex with young females.” The campaign teamed up with the Women’s Funding Network to publicize the problem, but was hit with a Cease and Desist letter from Craigslist.
More about the Craigslist sex ads controversy: