Craigslist, is facing accusations from two young girls caught in its sex trade advertisements. They accuse the website of becoming a huge place for the recruitment of underage prostitutes, and children to be trafficked.
Craigslist's popular 'adult services' ads section is described by critics as a hub for underage prostitution and child trafficking. So say two young women who placed an advertisement in the Washington Post saying they had been repeatedly sold through the site to men who 'paid to rape' them. It was an open letter to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.
Recently a federal judge tossed an attempt by Craigslist to stop an investigation of its 'adult section' which allegedly carries thousands of sex for hire ads a day. The two women who wrote the letter asked Newmark to shut his adult services section down.
MC, one of the women says she was forced into prostitution when she was just 11 by a man who trafficked "many girls my age."
"All day, me and other girls sat with our laptops, pasting pictures and answering ads on Craigslist. He made $1,500 a night selling my body, dragging me to Los Angeles, Houston, Little Rock, and on one trip to Las Vegas in the trunk of a car."
In the ad, the girls said,
"Craig we write this letter so you will know from our personal experiences how Craigslist makes horrific acts like this so easy to carry out ... and the men who arrange them very rich."
The second woman, AK, explained that last year she met a man twice her age who pretended he was her boyfriend.
"He put my picture on Craigslist, and I was sold for sex by the hour at truck stops and cheap motels, 10 hours with 10 different men every night. This became my life. Men answered the Craigslist ads and paid to rape me. The $30,000 he pocketed each month was facilitated by Craigslist 300 times."
AK said she was aware of more than 20 girls who were trafficked on the site.
Their ad was partially paid for by Fair Fund, which is a group that works with young women who have been sold for sex. It described Craigslist as "the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking". Fair Fund said it had checked the women's accounts and could vouch for them. And it said AK had met with US Attorney General, Eric Holder about this.
The chief executive of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster, said it has been working tirelessly with law enforcement agencies to identify ads that exploited children, by manually reviewing every adult service ad before posting it and requiring phone verification by the person placing it.
Two years ago, after 40 U.S. States threatened to take legal action, Craigslist began charging $10 per posting for adult services ads, although most of the site remained free. Craigslist says some of this money goes for charity. But that was not very reassuring to groups working with children forced into the sex trade.
The Fair Fund says thousands of ads are still being placed each day that list charges for encounters. Many include words that the Fair Fund says are flags for underage prostitution such as "fresh" and "inexperienced".
The Guardian.Co.UK reports that CNN confronted Newmark on the street recently with ads from Craigslist that offered girls for sex, and the case of a 12-year-old girl forced into prostitution and sold on the site until she was freed in a police raid north of Washington in June. A 42-year-old man was charged with human trafficking. But Newmark declined to respond.
The website is currently under criminal investigation in South Carolina and Connecticut by their respective Attorneys General.
Buckmaster has accused law enforcement officials of "grandstanding" and attempting to impose an outdated sexual moral code.
"...an unreasonable, unfair and hypocritical witch-hunt."