So Craigslist bowed to intense pressure and kicked its controversial "Erotic Services" ad category to the curb this week. Instead, it's unveiling a new ad category called "Adult Services" to take its place.
Why "Adult Services"? Because calling it "Hookers & Blow" might send the wrong message.
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Over the last few weeks, even as more and more state attorneys general sharpened their knives, sensing an nice juicy turkey to carve up and serve to voters, Craigslist doggedly clung to its Erotic Services category, declaring it a free speech issue. Per the Craigslist FAQ:
Illegal activity is absolutely not welcome, and will not be tolerated. However, when it comes to legal conduct between consenting adults, we feel it is important to err on the side of respecting free speech and privacy rights, and to leave moral judgements to the greater wisdom of the Craigslist community, who are empowered through our flagging system.... For those who believe such ads should be banned by law, experts tell us that is a constitutional question which could be addressed by seeking an amendment to restrict free speech.
This may be the first time getting your candlesticks polished has been equated to free speech. I, for one, demand my First Amendment rights -- right now. And if you could make it a redhead with green eyes, even better.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of that and many other amendments. Without free speech, I'd probably be cleaning toilets in some gulag. But as a non-governmental institution, Craigslist is not actually bound by the First Amendment. Like Facebook and any other private corporation, it can and does establish limits on what is acceptable content. And what it ultimately decided to do was change the name of the service and toss a few rules at it, in the hopes that all those angry AGs will go away.
So what exactly is the difference between Erotic Services and Adult? Good question.