Craigslist CEO responds to sex ad complaints

Classified ads site Craigslist came under fire from a couple of women claiming to have been sold as sex slaves through its pages.

The sordid revelations have prompted Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster to release an open letter to the women, known as 'AK' and 'MC', on whose behalf advocacy groups took out newspaper ads in the US, detailing how they were trafficked as minors through the site's 'adult' section.

Addressing his missive 'To AK and MC', he can't help obliquely suggesting that the accounts may be dubious.

"Hearing your accounts of being victimized by criminals who you mention also misused our site, we are anxious to know that the perpetrators are behind bars. Would you or the advocacy groups who placed the ads please let us know where the police reports were filed?" he writes. Adding: "We have been unable thus far to identify police reports matching the crimes you describe. If Craigslist was misused, we want to learn more so we can improve our preventative measures. If anyone committing such crimes has not yet been apprehended and prosecuted, we want to do everything in our power to assist the police in making that happen."

Buckmaster insists "criminal misuse of the site is quite rare. We are dedicated to eliminating it entirely however," he writes, "and in this regard we have been working for years to ensure that Craigslist is very much part of the solution to crimes such as trafficking and exploitation of minors."

He says that in May 2009 Craigslist "implemented manual screening of each adult services ad. Based on the time period mentioned in your newspaper ads, it appears the events you describe may have occurred before manual screening was implemented."

"Craigslist," he writes, "is one of the few bright spots and success stories in the critical fight against trafficking and child exploitation.

"We've been told as much by experts on the front lines, many of whom we have met with in person, and many of whom have shared helpful suggestions we have incorporated in our approach. Even politicians looking to advance their careers by publicly criticizing us grudgingly admit (when pressed) that we have made giant strides, and that Craigslist is virtually alone among advertising venues in vigorously combating exploitation and trafficking."

He lists some of the measures the classified ad site has instituted to crack down on the trafficking of sex slaves, adding: "We are not content, however, and are committed to making further progress. Specific information about the outrageous misuse of our site you describe in your advertisements will help prevent such crimes in the future."

The full text of the open letter is on the Craigslist bog, here.