Craigslist breaks its silence on sex trafficking, noting White House meeting

When Craigslist recently removed the section, it replaced it with the word "censored." This is the first time an official from Craigslist has elaborated on that decision.

In a prepared copy of his remarks, Powell only briefly mentioned the decision to remove the section. 

"As of September 3, 2010, Craigslist has terminated its adult services section," he says in the remarks. "Those who formerly posted adult services ads on Craigslist will now advertise at countless other venues. It is our sincere hope that law enfacement and advocacy groups will find helpful partners there."

Powell said chief executive Jim Buckmaster met with the White House and the Justice Department in July on its high-profile struggles to keep illegal ads off its site, looking at how "best practices" established by the Internet's biggest ad board could be used on other sites.

"The incidence of crime relating to use of Craigslist is extremely low," said Powell, who highlighted technology the site uses to police its boards. 

The company's action followed criticism from attorneys general and lawmakers that its site was abetting child prostitution. The choice was welcomed by human-rights groups, but they said the service should enact the same policy for its international boards.

He also said Buckmaster and company founder Craig Newmark were invited to the hearing. Buckmaster could not attend on short notice, and "Craig is focused primarily on his role as a member of my customer service team, and has not been involved in the day-to-day management of the company for nearly ten years."

4 p.m. update: Craigslist witness says company "diverges" human-rights advocates in approach to sex trafficking

Elizabeth McDougall, a counsel for Craigslist, also testified at the hearing. She said Craigslist diverges with some of the human-rights groups who spoke before the committee in its approach to eradicating child trafficking.

The groups' approach, she said, is "idealistic." They believe "eradicating adult and erotic services will eradicate victims," she said.

Craigslist's approach, she said, is "practical."

'Contain, control, report and assist law enforcement' are guiding principles for the approach, she said. The site emphasizes technological solutions to the problem, she said, including flagging illegal ads. 

4:06 update: Justice Department official: 'We can't close the Internet'

Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) asked if Craigslist knows who posts the ads on its sites.

McDougall said the company can supply a computer's IP number and the users' e-mail address, and the person could be tracked by law enforcement through their Internet service provider.

He then asked a Justice Department witness if Craigslist could be found liable for the content on its site.

"I'm not aware of anything that would make Craigslist criminally liable," said Francey Hakes from the Justice Department, adding that no one would propose "closing the Internet."

4:14 p.m. update:  Rep. Ted Poe wants to use the Internet to the advantage of law enforcement, posting sex traffickers' photos online

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said there is a social duty to make sure women are not arrested when prostitution occurs.

"We need to zero in on the consumer who pays for this crime," he said.  

For such people, "their photographs should be on the Internet. We ought to be thinking about how the Internet could be used to the advantage of the enforcement of the law."

4:20 p.m. update: Craigslist rep — Removing "adult services" may be a "step backward"

Powell said removing the section could be viewed as a step backward for addressing the core problems around child prostitution. 

Still, he said, the site has no intention to reinstate the section, and added that a situation in which the company is offered money to do so would not affect the consideration.