Craigslist pulls prostitution ads from Canadian websites

By benim
In Canada
Dec 19th, 2010
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Ottawa and Ontario say Craigslist appears to have pulled prostitution ads from its Canadian websites after months of pressure from politicians.

The San Francisco-based company’s “erotic services” section did not appear on the majority of its Canadian homepages Saturday, although some ads were still on the Halifax site and a detailed search of the Toronto site brought up an ad posted as recently as Friday.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he is pleased the erotic services section seems to have been removed.

“Our government was concerned that such advertisements could facilitate serious criminal offences, such as living on the avails of child prostitution and trafficking in persons,” he wrote in a statement sent to The Canadian Press.

The pulling of the section blatantly selling sex —which often carried explicit pictures and price lists — comes after nearly four months of repeated requests from Canadian governments.

The company removed its “erotic services” section from its U.S. sites in September after several U.S. attorneys general said there wasn’t enough protection against blocking potentially illegal ads promoting prostitution.

That prompted Ontario’s Attorney General Chris Bentley to write a letter, and later a second one, to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, asking him to pull prostitution ads in Canada as well.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the federal government followed with letters of their own.

Mr. Bentley said he was very pleased Craigslist seems to have “answered the call” made by himself and his provincial and federal colleagues.

“It’s an important step and an important signal,” Mr. Bentley told The Canadian Press. “We’re pleased Craigslist appears to have taken steps to protect women, children and the vulnerable.

Mr. Bentley said his office is working to get absolute confirmation from Craigslist, but added that Ontario is ready to take “whatever steps” may be necessary to protect the vulnerable in the province.

“When we raised this we took the position Craigslist should do the same for Ontarians that they did for Americans,” he said.

Craigslist did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, the website’s reaction to Canada’s request for action had been nothing more than asking for a meeting with Ontario officials. Meanwhile, it continued to allow hundreds of ads for prostitutes to be posted on its Canadian sites every day.

The realities of trafficking on the website made headlines in November when Chilliwack police arrested a 14-year-old British Columbia girl and charged her not only with prostituting herself, but with pimping out other under age girls through ads on Craigslist.

While many weekly newspapers in Canada carry explicit ads, the federal government had said they are more likely than Craigslist to exercise some editorial control to make sure the ads don’t promote child exploitation or human trafficking.

- Globe & Mail

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