Saturday, September 4, 2010— In 2009, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the website Craigslist, alleging it was effectively maintaining a common nuisance by knowingly allowing crimes to be facilitated through its business. Specifically, Dart alleged, its "Erotic Services" section included ads trafficking abused women and children for sex. Dart had spent the previous two years calling these ads to the attention of Craigslist, with little or no reply. In court, Craigslist argued that as an online site, it is exempt from any federal regulations. The day of the first court hearing on that case, Craigslist agreed to hire monitors for the re-named "Adult Services" section of its website.
Several months later, the lawsuit was dismissed, but Dart continued to urge for greater regulation, while also continuing to point out cases where his officers had found instances of continued trafficking and abuse of women and girls. In the last 12 months alone, about 1/3 of the nearly 500 prostitution arrests made by Cook County Sheriff's vice officers have come from Craigslist and similar sites. Craigslist is easily the largest source of trafficked and prostituted girls and women in the Chicago area. Today, after continuing pressures from attorneys general from across the country, Craigslist placed a "Censored" banner across its "Adult Services" section in the U.S.
The following statement is provided as Dart's reaction to that move: "I hope they finally realized they had to do something to stop their website from being used to destroy the lives of so many abused young girls and women. But I'm not entirely optimistic, given our experiences with them. We've spent three years urging them to do the right thing and they've always claimed they were doing nothing wrong. If they've suddenly come to the realization that they had to take responsibility for making it incredibly convenient for people to do horrific things to young girls, then that's a good thing."