Earlier this week, Craigslist announced plans to eliminate its erotic services category, creating a new “adult services” category in its place. This announcement came just a month after the killing of a masseuse who advertised on Craigslist.

Craigslist plans to pre-screen the ads that are posted to its new adult services category, and law enforcement officials are praising this as “a victory against online prostitution.”

Despite the concerns raised by authorities in the past regarding Craigslist’s erotic services category, this is the first move the website has made to exercise control over the content of this section of its site. This change came out of a meeting between the attorneys general of Illinois, Connecticut, and Missouri and Craigslist officials in response to a lawsuit filed by Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois.

Although the change is a step in the right direction, questions linger regarding the policy’s overall effectiveness. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and others worry that Craigslist’s vow to monitor involves only the new adult services category “and not other places people may try to place solicitation ads, such as under the personal ads.”

More importantly however is whether Craigslist actually remains committed to monitoring these ads. Hopefully, this is not just an attempt to avoid a possible court date as the announcement came the same day that prosecutors and Craigslist officials appeared in federal court.

Lastly, while Sheriff Dart says he will dismiss his lawsuit if Craigslist’s new monitoring service is effective, the new policy will certainly generate more legal questions “from law enforcement, free speech advocates and Internet law experts.”

— Brent Baxley

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