They call it the case of the “Craigslist killer,” and it shined a light on online prostitution. In the aftermath, Craigslist said it was cracking down.
Therese from Charlton doesn’t buy it. She Declared her Curiosity to WBZ:
“Why is Craigslist still allowed to advertise for sex? This is so illegal!”
WBZ’s David Wade went to the experts to find out what’s going on.
Hundreds of sexually oriented advertisements are still easy to find on Craigslist. Authorities say a lot of those ads are really selling sex, and that one of them may have led to murder. It was last April when police say Boston University Medical student Phillip Markoff responded to a massage ad placed by Julissa Brisman on Craigslist’s erotic services section. Markoff allegedly shot and killed Brisman. He has entered a plea of not guilty.
After what happened here in Boston, Craigslist which is in San Francisco, got rid of the “erotic” services section and replaced it with “adult” services. Most people would say that’s not much of a change. It also said it would monitor ads in the new section, but nearly eight months later, it seems like business as usual.
Medford Police Detective Lieutenant John Mclean works with a regional computer crime unit and keeps an eye on Craigslist. He says there haven’t been any big, overwhelming changes on the web site. When he scrolled through some of the ads in the adult services section he said: “A number of these are consistent with what potentially could lead to a prostitution investigation.”
“It’s pretty open, but you have to read between the lines,” said Lt. Mclean. And that’s a loophole of sorts. The ads don’t spell out prostitution. It’s all done with a wink. One of the ads Lt. Mclean looked at said there was “no sex” involved. But when we asked him if he believed that he answered, “No, I don’t believe it at all.”
Craigslist wouldn’t talk to us on-camera, saying its people were tied up in an unrelated court case. We wanted to know if the web site had reduced the number of ads that some people think is related to prostitution. They sent us a statement saying those ads have “migrated to the thousands of alternative venues that have yet to adopt the stringent standards and review process implemented by Craigslist.”
LAW PROTECTS THE SITE
Boston University professor and communications law expert T. Barton Carter says the law protects the web site, and that Craigslist isn’t doing anything illegal. “The law says that as long as you’re not the creator of the content, you have immunity from any legal actions concerning it,” says Carter. So the main recourse authorities have is to put pressure on the web site through bad publicity. “Then it becomes more of a public relations battle than a legal one,” says Professor Carter.
Tthat’s the battle people like Detective Mclean are waging. He wants Craigslist to crack down on ads that he says could lead to illegal activity. “They should have cleaned up years ago, and how long do we have to wait for another victim,” says Mclean.
A group of state Attorney Generals continues to put pressure on Craigslist, and one of them tells WBZ news that they’re planning to take new steps against the web site, and others like it, in the next few weeks.
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