The Cook County sheriff is filing a lawsuit against Craigslist.org, calling it the "single largest source of prostitution in the nation."
The lawsuit focuses on allegations of human trafficking and sex crimes, a release from Dart's office said.
Sheriff Tom Dart is asking a federal judge to order Craigslist to eliminate its "erotic services" section, where most prostitution ads are posted. He is also seeking reimbursement for tax dollars spent paying the salaries of officers who investigate and arrest those responsible for trafficking women on the website.
"Craiglist is the single largest soure of prostitution in the nation. Missing children, runaways, abused women, and women trafficked in from foreign countries are routinely forced to have sex with strangers because they're being pimped on craigslist." Dart said at a news conference.
Dart's office put out a list of Craigslist ads that officers have recently flagged or investigated:
While Craigslist doesn't charge for its Erotic Services ads, Dart said those ads generate huge amounts of traffic on the site, which then allows Craigslist to charge for premium ads in other sections, based on that traffic.
"Craigslist unabashedly facilitates prostitution, then ultimately makes a profit from it," Dart said in a release, pointing to the estimated $80 million in revenues Craigslist generated last year.
In November, Craigslist pledged to crack down on prostitution ads as part of an agreement with several attorneys general. It said it would require anyone who posts such an ad to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card.
A Craigslist spokeswoman said the company hasn't yet seen the complaint issued by Dart, but did say that the misuse of the site to facilitate criminal activity is unnacceptable and rare.
Furthermore, the site is an "extremely unwise choice" for people intent on breaking the law, spokeswoman Susan Best said in an e-mail. Criminals inevitably leave an electronic trail to themselves that law enforcement can follow, Best said.
Best provided the following list of measures taken by Craigslist which are aimed at preventing illegal activity on the site:
2. We place prominent notices on our posting forms warning against illegal activity;
3. We perform telephone verification on user accounts as a requirement for posting in "erotic services;"
5. We remove inappropriate ads that come to our attention;
7. We provide a community moderation system whereby our users flag inappropriate ads for removal;
8. We place prominent notices asking users to flag inappropriate ads;
9. In U.S. cities we require credit card authorization to post in "erotic services", and charge a fee for each ad, with 100% of net revenues donated to charity.;
10. We label adult content using the PICS rating sytem, which supports most content control software programs;
11. We prohibit the use of adult-only categories by persons under the age of 18;
12. We participate in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Cybertipline program;
13. We collaborate on user awareness campaigns regarding human trafficking and child exploitation;
14. We place notices encouraging users to report any suspected abuse of minors;
15. We maintain a resource page to assist users in reporting suspected abuse of minors;
16. We maintain information pages regarding personal safety on craigslist;
17. We adapt our web site to aid the work of agencies working on human trafficking and exploitation issues;
18. We respond promptly to inquiries and requests for assistance from law enforcement officer;