As part of a settlement with law enforcement in 40 states, Craigslist will be putting obstacles in the path of prostitutes who use the site to sell their services. Small, easily overcome obstacles.
Under the terms of the deal, users who post an ad to the “erotic services” section of the site will have to provide a working phone number. In addition, Craigslist will soon require anyone offering “erotic services” to pay a filing fee with a credit card — the company will turn over the fee’s revenues to charity. The idea is to scare people off and leave law enforcement an easy paper trail to follow in any future prosecution.
It won’t work. Since the new provisions only apply to the “erotic services” section, we expect Craiglist’s hookers to just move onto new turf on the site (our bet is either “services – therapeutic” or the ever-popular “personals – casual encounters”). And like Craigslist’s drug dealers, who offer “420” or “Mary Jane” instead of selling “marijuana,” we’re confident codewords for the prostitution trade will emerge.
All of which ignores the larger point: If Craigslist was truly serious about ridding their site of prostitution, why offer “erotic services” at all?