This past weekend, we heard news that Craigslist removed the “Adult” or “Erotic” section from all of its global sites worldwide. The action happened quietly, without much mention in mainstream media, perhaps because it’s not viewed as a newsworthy event. However, for those in the anti-trafficking field, this is a huge change. It’s certainly newsworthy because we know that a major source of free advertising has been cut off for human traffickers worldwide.
This past summer, Craigslist’ “Adult” section in the U.S. was a hot topic in the media. The daily drumbeat of stories about children found for sale in the sex trade on Craigslist was a regular occurrence. After numerous dialogues, letters, protests, blogs, news articles, Op/Eds, pleas from survivors, Congressional testimonies, and research studies, Craigslist finally took the “Adult” section down from their U.S. site in early September. Many in the anti-trafficking field rejoiced when Craigslist took this step. We knew how much this would disrupt the daily flow of pimps and johns selling and buying women and girls in the sex trade. But the celebration wasn’t complete because Craigslist didn’t finish the job. Despite the move they made in the U.S., Craigslist kept the “Erotic/Adult” section on the rest of its pages around the world.
Months ago, a few staff and volunteers at Polaris Project counted how many global “Erotic/Adult” sections there were on Craigslist’s international pages. There were more than 280. We also counted the total number of ads in each of these sections, and we learned that in one day, there were more 25,000.
The action that Craigslist took this past weekend was the right one. In doing so, it made the statement with its actions that it won’t stand being used as a powerful facilitator of the commercial sex trade and of human trafficking.
As soon as I heard the news on this past Saturday night, I felt a sense of relief. It’s great to see that certain aspects of our world don’t need to be passively accepted as fixed and immovable. In fact, change like this truly is possible when enough people set their hearts and minds to make it happen. Bravo to Craigslist for its latest move.