Craigslist faces prostitution controversy in NY

Thursday 21 May 2009 10:25 BST

Seven people accused of publicizing a New York City prostitution ring over Craigslist have been indicted, adding to pressure on the online classified site to vet its ads.

Room Service Entertainment, operating from the borough of Queens, continuously advertised in the erotic services section of Craigslist, New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The ring operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and serviced all five boroughs in New York City plus surrounding areas, employing numerous "bookers," drivers, and prostitutes from June 2007 through December 2008, Cuomo's office said.

The seven were charged with enterprise corruption and face a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted.

Craigslist said last week it would replace its "erotic services" ads with a new adult category, where ads would be closely screened, following pressure by state authorities due to the killing of a masseuse in Boston who advertised on the site.

"Until Craigslist gets serious about putting real protections in place, it will continue to be an environment where criminal operations thrive with impunity," Cuomo said on Wednesday.

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer at Craigslist, said the activities described by Cuomo took place in 2008, "well before Craigslist eliminated erotic services and commenced manual screening of all ads posted to adult services."

Separately, the website said it sued South Carolina's attorney general in federal court, seeking a determination on its right to publish ads and a restraining order against Attorney General Henry McMaster.

McMaster has repeatedly threatened to prosecute Craigslist and its executives regarding classified categories he said could be used to solicit prostitutes, Craigslist said in a statement.

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