After ads seeking nude models started disappearing off the Seattle Craigslist website, a number of "erotic artists" are starting to complain that it's because of the nature of their work. "There's been some wholesale censorship going on on Craigslist," says Rene, a Seattle photographer who would only give a pseudonym. "Craigslist has been completely negligent in dealing with this. They're taking away people's livelihood."
Rene, whose work appears on Met-Art.com, and a number of other local artists say their advertisements for nude models started disappearing from the "adult gigs" section of Craigslist in January, and the purging has only gotten worse since then. Rene and several other photographers claim that while they've sent e-mails, written letters, and left messages with Craigslist, the company hasn't done anything to prevent the mass deletions of their ads.
While "erotic art" may seem like a not-so-subtle code for porn, Rene insists he shoots tasteful "colorful [and] carefree" pictures of solo models, who make between $75 and $100 an hour for their work. "I'm not in the porn business," Rene says earnestly. "I'm in the pretty girl business."
Since Craigslist was created in 1995, the message board has expanded into a modern-day flea market. You can find just about anything on the site, from free piles of dirt to pay-by-the-hour companionship. Users on the site, who can flag ads for removal, vet most of the free-to-post online ads; once an ad is flagged a certain number of times, it comes down. This community-driven but unmoderated monitoring system, the erotic artists say, may be the problem.
"If you put an ad up, within 15 minutes it's flagged," says another local artist, who photographs nude models under the name Donatello. "Nobody knows what's going on. Most people think it's some far-right religious cult that's just policing the section and making it inoperative."
While it's clear someone's taking issue with artists' ads on Seattle's Craigslist, nearby cities don't seem to be facing the same purge problem. A quick check of the Vancouver and Portland message boards yields dozens of posts advertising nude modeling jobs. But on the Seattle site, depending on the time of day, there are anywhere between 2 and 10. While some of the deletions of artists' ads could be chalked up to "community standards," it seems strange that so many escorts would be able to post ads on Craigslist unchallenged.
While the Craigslist ad purge has mostly affected photographers and artists, one Seattle-based porn producer says he's having trouble finding models and has had to start looking outside of Seattle for his productions.
"When I post ads in Portland, they stay up," says Rodney Moore (not his real name), producer of the Top Heavy Tarts, Scale Bustin' Babes, and Horny Hairy Girls websites, among others. Moore says things have gotten so bad on Craigslist, he's been considering legal action against the site's owners for restraint of trade.
Moore says he's hoping to get a group of photographers and artists together to help pay for legal fees. "Even if... a letter from our attorney gets Craigslist's attention, it's going to cost [us]," he says. However, the short-term financial costs from hiring an attorney could help Moore and others in the long run. "[The purge] makes it almost impossible to attract new talent," Moore says.
Craigslist did not respond to requests for comment.