If they ever left in the first place.” As the report explains, shortly after the adult section was shuttered, AIM reviewed the classified site and found that “there were few if any blatant ads for prostitution.” But now, AIM has found that “ads that appear to be for paid sex work are posted regularly” on Craigslist.
Granted, the numbers are much lower than they were before the site closed its “adult services” section — and specific stats weren’t available ahead of this writing — but “some [ads] were as blatant as they were” before the closure, and a subset included terms like “barely legal” (which is often used to signal the opposite: underage girls).
Activists calling for the site to shutter its adult classifieds section on the grounds that it promotes sex trafficking — like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof — have seized on research from Advanced Interactive Media Group (AIM) showing that across a handful of sites carrying prostitution ads, 70 percent come from Backpage.
Another significant finding from the organization is that the site’s parent company, Village Voice Media, makes $22 million from such ads.
Again and again, critics of the site trot out these, and similar, statistics drawn from AIM research — but the organization’s latest study highlights just how far online prostitution spans beyond Backpage.
In fact, the first lines of the report return to the supposedly resolved issue of sex ads on Craigslist: “Prostitution ads are back on Craigslist.
Researchers also found such ads on and (interestingly, the latter is owned by the New York Times Co., which employs Kristof, arguably the most vocal critic of Backpage).
The release lays out the financial benefit to hosting such ads: “Whether free or paid, listings and ads for escort services and similar adult content frequently serve a business purpose for sites like and YP.com,” the report explains.
“They drive traffic and page-views; they deliver legitimate results for seemingly (or pseudo-) legitimate businesses; and they provide search results with adjacent paid or pay-per-click ads, which can generate revenue as they are served.”The volume of these ads is nowhere near that on Backpage, but AIM’s finding shows how easily sex ads proliferate online, even in “legitimate” online venues.
Keeping these ads from popping up online is like trying to keep frogs in a bucket.
Asked to comment on whether this latest research poses a challenge to the effort to shut down Backpage’s adult section, Peter M.