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The online marketplace Craigslist has closed the controversial "adult services" listing in the US. The company has not said why it took the decision, but it has faced an ongoing barrage of criticism from attorneys general and advocacy groups. They have claimed the listing was a virtual tool for pimps and prostitutes.

The section has now been replaced with a black and white bar that re "censored". An "erotic" service is still active outside the US. A statement from Craigslist executives is expected in the coming days.

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Last year the San Francisco based company removed its "erotic services" section and replaced it with a fee-based adult category in response to pressure from 40 state attorneys general. In a May blog post, Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster said Craigslist had "gone beyond fulfilling its legal obligations".

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The site was "a leader in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation," he said. But critics continued to accuse the firm of helping to facilitate child prostitution.

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The listings came under renewed scrutiny after the suicide in prison last month of a former medical student who was awaiting trial in the killing of a masseuse he met through Craigslist. In early August a paid advert appeared in the Washington Post from two women appealing for the closure of the adult services section.

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One said she had been forced into prostitution at the age of 11, with the jobs organised through Craigslist. And last week in a t letter to Craigslist, 17 attorneys general said women and children would "continue to be victimised in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist".

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The latest move by Craigslist to close down the service was welcomed by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a persistent critic of both the erotic and adult listings. But in the blogosphere there has been broad support for Craigslist's position. And at Wired, Evan Hansen said: "Internet services may accelerate and exacerbate some social problems like prostitution, but they rarely cause them.

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The root of these issues - and their solutions - lie in the realm of public policy, not web sites. Craigslist responds to sex claims.

Craigslist boss defends website. Connecticut Attorney General's office.

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Craigslist was started in as a hobby by founder Craig Newmark. It also adopted a policy of screening every advert. Published 9 August Published 18 May ZIP:

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