Craigslist is by far the largest single advertiser of commercial sex in the world. The website has earned the title "Rich Pimp" with profits of US$36.3 from sex ads alone. With that said, are they THE problem?
As of 2008, prostitution on the Internet has been flourishing as many sex workers have moved to Internet sites such as Craigslist, MySpace, Eros.com and myRedBook to solicit sexual encounters. In turn, pimps have used these sites to broker their women.
Responding to pressure from the NCMEC and the attorneys general of 40 states, Craigslist placed new limits on its adult ads last November. Among other reforms, the site now charges $5 for the formerly free postings, allowing it to collect and store the poster’s credit card number and name, making it available to law enforcement subpoenas in any future criminal investigation.
"Misuse of Craigslist for criminal purposes is unacceptable, and Craigslist continues to work with it's partners in law enforcement to eliminate it. Of the thousands of U.S. venues that carry adult service ads...Craigslist has done the best and most responsible job of combating child exploitation and human trafficking." - Jim Buckmaster, CEO
Nevertheless, a month after the measure was adopted, an underage girl missing from New Jersey turned up in a prostitution post on Craigslist. Police spotted her nude photo in an ad offering in-call services in Miami, 1,200 miles away from her home. She was rescued, and her alleged pimp, Ali Hakim, was indicted last month on sex trafficking and related charges.
Tech-savvy pimps use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter to recruit young, troubled, and often underage users.
"We’re seeing kids who are getting into this stuff that do not match society’s stereotype ... These are not just kids in poor families who have no other options. We’re seeing kids from the full spectrum of society, and a lot of that is due to recruitment over the Internet." - says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NCMEC
Last June, a 14-year-old Ohio girl ran away with a 30-year-old Florida pimp named Alan Townsend, after meeting him on the social networking site Urbanchat.com. According to court records, Townsend used his senior prostitute, 27-year-old Courtney Shine, to gain the victim’s trust and convince her that a career in modeling awaited if she drove with them to Florida.
"This happens, and it happens a lot more than people realize ... We don’t want to terrify parents. But if their kids are at risk, they’re at more risk online." - Parry Aftab, founder and director of WiredSafety, which advises children on Internet risks.
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