Almost two months after Craigslist abruptly closed their adult ads section in the U.S., the AIM Group has released a report which shows the site's sudden ban has meant a 48% drop in the overall volume of prostitution ads online. Despite some displacement to other sites like Backpage.com, the online commercial sex industry is projected to shrink by $37 million this year. That includes a reduction in the untold number of children and trafficking victims who have been advertised on these sites. The AIM Group, the leading consultancy group for online classified ads, released a report which shows the declining and shifting trends in Internet advertising for commercial sex. Before Craigslist's closure, the group estimated the top online erotic services advertising sites would net $76 million in revenue from ads this year. Now, that projection has dropped to just over $39 million. So where is that missing $37 million, which represents advertisements for both voluntary prostitution and sex trafficking, going?
A portion of it is being displaced to other online commercial sex advertisers, notably Backpage.com. Backpage saw a monthly increase of $221,000 in revenue from erotic services ads after Craigslist's closure. But while the growth represented a 15% increase for Backpage, it is still a pittance compared to the $3.7 million Craigslist had been raking in monthly from commercial sex ads. Other websites which specialize exclusively in escort services, erotic services, and other online ads which are often thinly masked fronts for prostitution also saw an increase in both revenue and traffic after Craigslist's closure. But the bumps have been modest at best.
Even when all added together, the top commercial sex advertising sites increased their revenue by just over $420,000, a mere 11% of the $3.7 million Craigslist would have been paid if they were still open for business. That means that 89% of the money that would have been spent to sell commercial sex this month — including sex with children and human trafficking victims — was spent somewhere else. Maybe it went to concert tickets or school tuition or collecting Pez dispensers. But that money didn't go to advertising sex with trafficked women and kids online.
Despite the confirmation that Craigslist's decision to shut down their adult ads section has actively shrunk the market for child trafficking, there is still work to be done. Backpage.com, where there have been documented cases of child sex trafficking, has now taken over Craigslist's role as the number one advertiser for commercial sex on the Internet. You can ask them to stop facilitating child sex trafficking on their site. And while Craigslist erotic ads are a thing of the past in the U.S., they are up and running in Canada, despite widespread criticism from the Canadian government. Imagine how much more of a difference Craigslist could make by making changes to their Canadian site as well.
While many people argued with Craigslist's decision to shut down their adult ads, that choice has ultimately led to a reduction in online commercial sex ads, which are the number one facilitator of child sex trafficking in the U.S. And when fewer children are sold for sex online, that's a victory we can all claim.