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With the so-called Craigslist killer making daily headlines, experts are debating whether the online classified advertising firm could face legal trouble for allegedly allowing the site to promote prostitution.

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The online classified advertising firm is already facing a lawsuit in an Illinois federal court accusing it of facilitating prostitution. The debate intensified earlier this week after a Boston University medical student, Philip Markoff, was arrested and arraigned earlier this week for allegedly murdering one woman and kidnapping and assaulting another - both of whom he found in erotic services on Craigslist.

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The attacks and subsequent arrest have put the spotlight on a Web site that lets people post selling old sofas and bicycles, along with escort services and massages. But while some say that Craigslist, which does publish Personal Safety Tips on its site, succeeds in being a free and open marketplace, others say some of the under its "Erotic Services" category go too far legally. And the question, since prostitution and advertising for such services are illegal in most states, is whether Craigslist could find itself in legal hot water.

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Last month, Dart filed suit in U. District Court against the owners of Craigslistaccusing them of knowingly promoting and facilitating prostitution. This came just four months after the Web site settled a national lawsuit, vowing to set up safeguards to restrict some postings on the Web site. Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, calls the sheriff's charges "baseless" and says that the company works hard to filter out advertisements for prostitution.

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While some of the in that category include nude photos and list hourly rates, Buckmaster said they are not necessarily advertising illegal services. Assistant U. Attorney V. Grady O'Malley said there's a very good chance that Craigslist is under some pressure right now to better police or even get rid of its Erotic Services category. I believe so," said O'Malley, who is not involved in any investigations into Craigslist.

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I believe so. Are the families of these two or three women [who were allegedly targeted by Markoff] loading up right now to file civil charges?

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Is a criminal charge that far away? If you get an aggressive U. Attorney's office who wants to put a stop to this type of stuff, they'll drop a grand jury subpoena on the CEO of Craigslist. O'Malley added that if Craigslist is running any for prostitution, a prosecutor could charge that the Web site essentially acting as a so-called "pimp.

That le to extra cost to running Craigslist. That's an enormous time sink for everybody.

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I don't fault them for retaining a hands-off approach to that kind of policy. Van Wyk also said he hopes Craigslist doesn't rethink its policies about what kinds of it will accept. There's going to be some abuse of it, certainly.

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You do what you do and they'll give you a place to run your flea market. The community needs a sort of service like that and it works well when it works.

The fact that it has encouraged an under market of all sorts of illicit things is inevitable," he said. Buckmaster noted that Craigslist makes itself available to help in law enforcement investigations, though he said he could not say if they helped the Boston Police Department with its investigation into Markoff. They're creating lo of evidence that will be used to find them, identify them and prosecute them.

He said developers at Craigslist are working on additional blocking and filtering technologies to keep inappropriate content off the site. Sharon Gaudin is a science writer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an experienced technology reporter. Here are the latest Insider stories. More Insider Out. In Register.

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Could Craigslist killer, racy get Web site in more legal hot water? Craigslist execs, state AGs meet to discuss questionable .

Seven charged with using Craigslist to run prostitution ring. Seven AGs call on Craigslist to show plan to prevent racy .

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