Following a pair of deadly encounters arranged through the site, Craigslist is getting rid of its "erotic services'' ads and will create a new adult category that Web site employees will review.
In a pair of shocking incidents over the last two months, two New Yorkers who posted ads in the section met a gruesome demise. Radio newsman George Weber was stabbed more than 50 times in his Brooklyn home after posting an ad for rough sex. Upper West Sider Julissa Brisman fell victim to the notorious "Craigslist Killer" after she answered a Craigslist ad for massage, police said.
Such existing ads on Craigslist will expire in seven days, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said this morning. Madigan and the attorneys general for Connecticut and Missouri met with Craigslist officials last week seeking an end to ads they contend are advertisements for illegal sexual activities.
Craigslist came under renewed pressure to remove the ads after a medical student in Boston was charged with the April killing of Brisman, a 25-year-old masseuse he met on the site. Philip Markoff, 23, was also charged with robbing another masseuse at a Boston hotel and pulling a gun on a stripper in Rhode Island. The dancer claimed she was bound with cord and held at gunpoint by a man she met on Craigslist. Markoff may have trolled the Internet looking for men to target as well. He used a Yahoo email address that identified himself as a sex addict to send "explicit emails and photos" to men he found with Craigslist ads labeled "M4T," meaning "men looking for transsexual."
The link between Craigslist "erotic services" ads and murder has been well documented. In March, a 16-year-old boy was arrested for brutally murdering Weber after a coke- and booze-fueled sex romp. The suspect, John Katehis, had met with Weber in response to the older man's Craigslist ad seeking "rough sex" in exchange for $60. In court last week, Katehis' attorney said his client killed Weber in self defense. Using the word "child" nine times to describe his client, Jeffrey Schwartz portrayed Katehis as the victim of a sexual predator who was asked to engage in behavior he felt uncomfortable doing.
"We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from erotic to adult and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "Our continuing investigation will assure that these steps are substance, not just spin, and that craigslist really shuts down its open online red light district."
The online advertising site has also been used as a place for pimps to tout their wares. Last November, a 24-year-old man was arrested for forcing young girls and women into prostitution in New York City and Long Island. Prosecutors said he advertised the services of women between the ages of 15 and 20.
"These measures are a solid next step, not a complete solution. Closing the erotic services section -- a blatant Internet brothel -- should lead to other blocking and screening measures, and set a model for other sites, if craigslist keeps its word," Blumenthal said.