Some state attorney generals bucking for a promotion have been attacking a website, Craigslist, that allows people to advertise items and services they sell for free. Apparently, that’s okay unless the thing the seller wants to sell is their own body.

Craigslist has caved to some of the AGs demands, including shutting down their notorious erotic services category.

Clearly, that didn’t make prostitution go away, so what’s the fall-out? Have the AGs put an end to (or even slowed down the popularity of) prostitution, thus earning Puritan credibility and a a shot at a run for governor among puritan voters?

Here’s what I see:

1. People looking to sell themselves on Craigslist will shift to other categories, polluting non-sexual services classifieds categories with innuendo-laden ads.

2. Some sellers will shift to other sites that continue to provide a platform for erotic advertising, such as CityPages.com’s backpage.com site.

3. Non-Craigslist publishers will profit from the changes. Check out how flaccid Backpage.com’s traffic (the brand used by Village Voice Media for their largely sex-populated classifieds) was before Craigslist dropped their erotic services category:

Backpage.com Traffic Trend

Backpage.com’s traffic got a double shot of Viagra when Craigslist stopped providing a venue for free advertisements. This also provides some perspective on how much of backpage’s traffic is sex-industry driven compared to garage sale announcements. To drive home how sex-dependent Backpage.com is, here are the top-10 non-branded (terms that include company names) search terms that drove traffic to Backpage.com over the last month according to Compete.com:

1. shemale escorts in nj
2. craigslist
3. buffalo escorts
4. revolving tradelines
5. latinas massage in houston
6. raleigh gfe
7. dallas classifieds
8. seattle escorts
9. facebook of sex
10. www.escorts in mass

(What’s up with New Jersey?)

Backpage.com, unlike Craigslist, has been in the business of profiting from prostitution by charging for ads in their various adult classifieds categories for years. They’re also less discrete about their classifieds offerings, search engine optimizing their way to the #1 position on Google for many city-specific escort searches:

Minneapolis Escorts - Backpage Optimization

Looking for escorts? Backpage.com profits from being a classifieds gateway while Craigslist provided the same service for free. Why state attorney generals decided that Craigslist is the enemy isn’t entirely clear.

Strangely, the actions taken by many of our country’s state attorney generals may lead to Craigslist profiting from prostitution as well. After shutting down their erotic services category, they opened up a new adult category where they charge for ads. Since November, they’ve charged advertisers for ads placed in their erotic services category but gave the money to charities designed to help people get out of the industry. However, as I understand it, that doesn’t apply to the newly formed category.

If the AGs goal was to actually help people working in the sex industry, they could have simply called or emailed the people advertising on Craigslist. But that would involve social work, which probably isn’t a priority of the attorney general’s office, where they’re more interested in looking for criminal angles rather than social problems.

It seems like the state AGs have whacked a mole on this one.