The state prosecutors' request was in a letter sent Tuesday to Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster and founder Craig Newmark. The attorneys general claim Craigslist has shown that it cannot, or will not, screen illicit ads, and therefore must shutdown the adult services section.
"The increasingly sharp public criticism of Craigslist's adult services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution -- including ads trafficking children -- are rampant on it," the letter says. "In our view, the company should take immediate action to end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads."
In response to the letter, Craigslist said it strongly supported the "attorneys general desire to end trafficking in children and women through the Internet or by any other means."
"We hope to work closely with them, as we are with experts at nonprofits and in law enforcement, to prevent misuse of our site in facilitation of trafficking, and to combat such crimes wherever they appear, online or offline," the site said in a statement emailed Thursday to InformationWeek
Attorneys general have pressured Craigslist before for allegedly failing to police the online classified ads site. In May 2009, the site agreed to close its "erotic services" section, after a 26-year-old New York woman was shot to death while meeting a client who answered her massage ad on Craigslist.
Craigslist replaced the shuttered site with the adult services section, saying the site would manually review every ad posted and stop users from posting nude or graphic photos. However, those steps have been inadequate, according to state prosecutors.
"Your much-touted 'manual review' of Adult Services ads has failed to yield any discernable reduction in obvious solicitations," the letter says.
This month, Craigslist posted on its blog a response to half-page ads taken out in the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle by child advocacy groups. The ads highlighted the brutalization suffered by two girls who claim they were trafficked for sex through ads on Craigslist.
In the response, Craigslist asked where it could find police reports on the crimes. "If Craigslist was misused, we want to learn more so we can improve our preventative measures," the blog said. "If anyone committing such crimes has not yet been apprehended and prosecuted, we want to do everything in our power to assist the police in making that happen."
The attorneys general letter said Craigslist's response implied that the victims, law enforcement and children's advocates were at least partially to blame for not providing the police reports and other pertinent information to Craigslist. They also said the site's position ignored the fact that it is the "only player in the sex industry who is in a position to stop these ads before they are published."
"We recognize that Craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads," the letter says. "No amount of money, however, can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by Craigslist."
The attorneys general who signed the letter were from Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.