Is Craigslist bluffing over adult ads?

Having taken down its Adult Services section without explanation, some are speculating whether Craigslist is trying to teach attorneys general a lesson, rather than permanently averting its gaze from adult ads.

The strangest massage I ever had consisted of the spa masseuse waving her hands all over my body, supposedly sending positive energy its way, without ever touching it.

Some are speculating that Craigslist, having removed its Adult Services section without explanation, is performing a similar sort of energy transfer.

Craigslist has remained entirely tight-lipped about the insertion of the word "CENSORED" where its Adult Services used to be. Yet some wonder whether Craigslist might be trying to prove that closing the section will merely encourage those who place ads for prostitution to use another of Craigslist's sections- such as Casual Encounters.

The New York Times quoted Richard Blumenthal, one of the entirely public-spirited attorneys general who have been pressuring Craigslist for some time, as saying: "If this announcement is a stunt or a ploy, it will only redouble our determination to pursue this issue with Craigslist, because they would be in a sense be thumbing their nose at the public interest."

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The attorneys general seem clearly to believe that they represent that public interest. Such a claim doesn't seem to be supported by the existence of vast human lobbies picketing Craigslist's offices 24 hours a day, screeching "porn peddler" at founder Craig Newmark and his staff.

Some suggest that the legal pressure being exerted on Craigslist rather more represents the old order's desperate attempt to crush the new, disruptive technologies that are decimating the old order's way of life and business.

When it replaced its Erotic Services section and replaced it with Adult Services, Craigslist began to charge for the ads, promised it would screen them individually and ask advertisers to leave a phone number with which the ad could be associated. The company decided to do this even though the law seems to offer it full support, as the Communications Decency Act states that sites are not liable for the material posted on their pages.

It's not as if Craigslist is alone in featuring adult ads, or making money from them. Gawker has helpfully provided a compendium of online opportunity for those who feel deprived by the sudden censorship on Craigslist.

Craigslist's refusal to comment on the sudden closure will surely add to the wonderment about what is really going on. But not, perhaps, in places like the United Arab Emirates. There, as in other parts of the world, Craigslist's Erotic Services section is still going strong.

It will be interesting to see whether Craigslist will come out in the next few days and declare that it has given up the fight against oppressive and time-consuming legal pressure. It might, though, revive the Adult Services section while creating some new safeguards in order to eliminate child prostitution ads, which seemed to be one of the prime areas highlighted by its critics.

A cursory and entirely unscientific perusal of various "Women seeking Men" sections of Craigslist's U.S. personals doesn't thus far reveal a sudden increase in ads that appear to be of a commercial, rather than purely personal nature.

So, while wondering what is truly going on, perhaps one should leave the last word to Conan O'Brien, who seemed to neatly summate the current situation on Twitter: "Craigslist has shut down their adult services section. Looks like the "used futon for sale" ads are about to get a lot more interesting."

I have reached out to Craigslist for comment and will update if I hear anything.
 

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