Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Craigslist market for erotic/adult services

Scott Cunningham at Baylor, who is a serious student of illicit labor markets (e.g. the market for sex), writes

"Not sure if you saw this or not. Adult services censored on Craigslist

"It's not clear whether Craigslist has shut down the adult services section or not. That it is censored from the US but not from the rest of the country, though, suggests to some maybe.

"You've probably at least been peripherally aware that in the last month, approximately 20 state attorney generals had begun a new public campaign calling for Craigslist to shut down "adult services" altogether. FWIW, I have a chapter entitled "Sex for Sale: Online Commerce in the World's Oldest Profession" (with Todd Kendall) in the 2010 forthcoming book _Crime Online: Correlates, Causes and Controls_ edited by Tom Hold through Carolina Academic Press in which we explore, among other things, what happened the last time Craigslist implemented a major change to its erotic services section (namely, requiring all cities/markets to pay the $5-10 per ad and replacing erotic services with adult services, which was more heavily screened by Craigslist staff to identify prostitution advertisements). There was a temporary drop in ads, but they began to grow again as the weeks and months went on. But more importantly perhaps, there was a sudden spike in prostitution advertisements at a separate classified website operated by Village Voice called "backpage.com". Before Craigslist implemented that policy, backpage was never really used at all, but after that policy, it both saw a shortrun spike, and a longrun trend upwards in terms of daily posts, suggesting if nothing else that the cross-price elasticity of supply for these kinds of ads is not zero in the shortrun, but especially the longrun."

And here's the NY Times story: Craigslist Blocks Access to ‘Adult Services’ Pages, and two further stories that note that it will be easy for prostitution ads to relocate to other sites: How Censoring Craigslist Helps Pimps, Child Traffickers and Other Abusive Scumbags; and  Pimp Mobile--Craigslist shuts its "adult" section. Where will sex ads go now?  More recently, the "censored" label has been removed but the section remains closed: Craigslist Pulls ‘Censored’ Label From Sex Ads Area

Update (Sept. 15): ‘Adult Services’ Closed, Craigslist Says
"Craigslist, for the first time since it unexpectedly blocked sex ads from its site this month, said Wednesday that it had permanently closed its “adult services” section but defended its right to post sex-related ads as well as its efforts to fight sex trafficking.

"William Clinton Powell, director of customer relations and law enforcement relations at Craigslist, made the remarks Wednesday in testimony prepared for a hearing on sex trafficking of minors before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Craigslist has terminated its adult services section,” Mr. Powell said in his prepared remarks. “Those who formerly posted adult services ads on Craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues.”

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