Already under fire for its thriving Adult Services section, Craigslist on Monday was subpoenaed by Connecticut's top law enforcement official, who is investigating whether the site is doing enough to get rid of ads for prostitution and other illegal activity.
The demand came from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who is co-heading a group of 39 states that has expressed concern over the ads. In addition to law enforcement agencies, groups opposed to human trafficking have also criticized the ads. The controversy intensified last week when a company estimated that sales this year from adult services will triple to about $36.3m compared with sales from 2009.
"The craigslist brothel business seems booming - belying its promise to fight prostitution," Blumenthal said in a statement. "The best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on craigslist - skimpily and slickly disguised with code words. We are asking craigslist for specific answers about steps to screen and stop sex-for-money offers - and whether the company is actually profiting from prostitution ads that it promised the states and public that it would try to block."
In late 2008, Craigslist announced changes that for the first time required people posting to the site's red-light district to register using a valid credit card and telephone number. Those caught posting "inappropriate" ads were threatened with being blacklisted.
Website officials also promised to donate the proceeds of those ads to charities that work to prevent human trafficking. Craigslist later backed away from that promise and now refuses to say what it does with the ad sales.
Still, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has defended the steps his employees take to filter out prostitution services, saying they go well beyond those carried out by newspapers.
"True to form, CT AG Blumenthal is once again indulging in self-serving publicity at the expense of the truth and his constituents — touting a subpoena on television and telling whoppers about craigslist 'reneging' on promises — even before craigslist had been served with a subpoena," Buckmaster wrote on Monday in a blog post headlined Deja Blumenthal.
The subpoena came the same day that authorities learned Craigslist was the venue for the sale of a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was found in Times Square on Saturday night with a homemade bomb. The former owner of the vehicle said he recently sold it for $1,300 in cash to a man who didn't identify himself. ®