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Originally published Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 3:59 PM

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Craigslist should make good on promise to fight prostitution ads

Craigslist has been in the news lately and not in the best light. The site is not responsible for a recent murder in Edgewood. Yet it has work to do to clean up a site that allows ads that appear to promote or involve prostitution. Such ads demean the most vulnerable in our society, women and children.

YOU do not have to be a technical whiz to know Craigslist is not to blame for the recent murder in Pierce County, a heinous crime that claimed the life of a loving father in front of his family.

But it also doesn't take too much to recognize the site must do more to rid itself of numerous posts that seem to promote or involve prostitution.

A visit to the site's adult-services section shows women in degrading poses, charging sometimes, 15 (heart sign) 60 — looks like 15 minutes for $60 — and others that talk about money being exchanged in half-hour and full-hour increments.

A poorly drafted law, the Communications Decency Act, gives Craigslist and similar sites most of the benefits in legal challenges. So numerous attorneys general trying to coax the site to root out ads that degrade women and children have limited legal tools.

The Connecticut attorney general issued a subpoena last week seeking evidence that the company is fulfilling an earlier public promise to fight advertisements for prostitution. The agreement reached with 39 attorneys general, including our own, was designed to crack down on these ads. The new approach helped some but there is much more to do.

"The Craigslist brothel business seems booming — belying its promise to fight prostitution," Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal said. "The best evidence is thousands of ads that remain on Craigslist — skimpily and slickly disguised with code words. ... This lucrative online red-light district has real victims — women and children virtually entrapped and exploited."

Seattle Police Vice Commander Eric Sano says Craigslist and other sites are among the main ways officers track down sexually exploited juveniles and adults. The department's focus now is, as it should be, on domestic trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors.

Women, girls and boys veer into prostitution for many reasons. They need help getting their lives back on track.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said, "It's unacceptable to facilitate criminal behavior and pretend you are an innocent party."

McKenna should step up his involvement. And Craigslist and other sites must work harder to eliminate posts that treat women and children in a degrading manner.

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