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Craigslist, the famed pioneer of free online classified advertising, announced Thursday that one type of advertising will soon no longer be free: those for erotic services.

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Instead, the San Francisco-based Craigslist soon will begin requiring advertisers for massages, strippers, escort services and the like to pay a fee with a credit card - fees the famously profit-averse company plans to donate to charity. The move is part of a deal between Craigslist and more than 40 state attorneys general to crack down on prostitution .

Craigslist already requires that people listing erotic services provide phone s, and has begun taking legal action against software companies that help people get around that and other restrictions, Buckmaster said.

Craigslist is not legally required to take such steps - existing law provides immunity to services such as Craigslist for actions taken by their users, said Kurt Opfahlsenior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

However, law enforcement officials can subpoena such companies for user information such as phone and credit card s.

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In the past, such subpoenas would deliver little information, because the erotic services - like most on Craigslist - could be posted anonymously. Under the arrangement with the attorneys general, Craigslist volunteered to begin collecting phone and credit card s from erotic services advertisers after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal complained about prostitution on the site.

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Requiring phone s has already reduced the volume of erotic services by 80 percent, Buckmaster said. Charging an as-yet-undetermined fee is expected to reduce the volume still further.

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The deal brought accolades from groups such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which ed the agreement. Sylvia Borellifounder of Lovings.

Borelli said her site has long taken similar measures and more, such as verifying that advertisers are over The credit card verification system "can also be circumvented. But I think that people will start thinking twice, because there is more of a paper trail.

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The policy attracted a handful of angry reactions on the Craigslist blog. Commenters accused Craigslist of "caving in to the police establishment" and turning its back on a history of protecting free anonymous expression.

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Doogan said Craigslist had provided a place where sex workers could anonymously and safely connect with clients - and vice versa - for free. On the other end of the criticism spectrum was Trench Reynoldsa pseudonymous crime blogger who tracks Craigslist-linked crime at craigscrimelist.

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Meanwhile, groups such as the EFF are watching the agreement to see how it works out, said Opfahl. Buckmaster said the company is trying to strike a balance, keeping the erotic services section - in part to keep such from appearing elsewhere on Craigslist - but trying to do so responsibly, protecting free speech and preventing exploitation.

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Hopefully, he said, Craigslist can be a pioneer in this kind of cooperation as it has been on the Internet. Top shopping picks.

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