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DART CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CRAIGSLIST PROMISES

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 — Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said changes craigslist is promising to make to the “Erotic Services” section of its website are a step in the right direction to addressing human trafficking and prostitution ads on the site, but hesitated to declare a total victory in his lawsuit against the website.            

In U.S. District Court today, craigslist attorneys told Judge John Grady that changes taking effect today will properly address complaints Dart raised in a lawsuit filed in March. Dart, concerned about the number of human trafficking, juvenile pimping and prostitution postings flourishing unchecked on the website, accused craigslist of creating a public nuisance when it created its “Erotic Services” section specifically for these ads. Dart said it would be no different than if craigslist had created a specific section to sell illegal drugs or to engage in other criminal acts.            

But craigslist has promised to hire staff to monitor “Adult Services” postings before they go up online, in addition to other promised steps to work with law enforcement.            

“While these changes are a step in the right direction, we know craigslist has promised changes before,” Dart said. “I’m suspicious of their new promises and our vice unit will be tracking activity there to ensure their promises are kept this time. It’s just a shame that it’s taken this long and so many people have been victimized before craigslist would agree to do the right thing.” In the complaint, Dart asked a judge to order the website to either shut down its “Erotic Services” section or order its administrators to better monitor that section, as is done with other sites.            

The CEO of craigslist initially balked at making any changes, insisting that his staff was doing nothing wrong, while vigorously defending the website’s right to have such ads posted, going unchecked on the otherwise mainstream website.            

But after several tragedies across the country tied to the “Erotic Services” section, including a murder in Boston, craigslist showed an openness to making the very changes Dart had suggested.            

Last year, craigslist had reached an agreement with Attorneys General from across the country, vowing to better police its website for these crimes. But after several months, Dart noticed virtually no changes and filed his complaint. After the suit was filed and other tragedies unfolded, craigslist again discussed making changes with those same Attorneys General.            

“We would hope that this time, craigslist’s promised changes have real results,” Dart said. “I’m grateful for the efforts of the Attorneys General who came together from across the country to collectively tell craigslist it has to make these changes.”            

The next U.S. District Court hearing on the craigslist complaint, filed pro bono by the Chicago-based law firm Querrey & Harrow, is set for later this summer.

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