Craigslist’s take down of their “Adult Services” ads has had a domino effect on other major classified ad outlets. The most recent ad site to remove erotic ads? The Washington Post, who announced this week they will voluntarily remove all massage parlor ads, which, critics say, encourage sex trafficking.
Earlier this month, Craigslist removed their erotic ads in the wake of criticism from human rights activists and 17 Attorneys General—who sent a joint letter to the San Francisco-based company demanding the removal of the ads, which, they argued, encouraged sex slavery of minors.
At a recent congressional hearing on the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (H.R. 5575), Craigslist argued that the removal of their erotic ads will only make sex trafficking harder to trace and prosecute. Ads will become more cryptic, and simply move to “less socially responsible venues,” they said.
In some sense, they may be right. Craigslist broke the mold, but other sites have come under fire: Echoing earlier action taken toward Craigslist, 21 Attorneys General sent Village Voice Media a letter demanding the removal of adult ads from Backpage.com (Backpage.com has refused). And, after a blog post written by Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster—seemingly to deflect negative attention from Craigslist—eBay’s classified ads were blasted for peddling sex without adequate screening policies.
The writing is on the wall: erotic ads are bad PR. And grassroots action taken against Craigslist seem likely to be levied against even more classified sites.
So it came as no surprise yesterday when the Washington Post announced they will stop accepting massage parlor ads, which, our ATEST partners Polaris Project contend, “are often front[s] for brothels selling trafficked women.” This move was a long time coming. WaPo Omudsman Deborah Howell pointed out that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe all don’t allow massage parlor ads—and that it’s high time “The Post should join them.”