Craigslist dropped its "erotic services" ads on Wednesday following a campaign by law enforcement and a high-profile murder in which police say the killer used the website to find his victim.
Craigslist said in a post on the company blog it was shutting down the "erotic services" section even though "the use of Craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds."
"As of today for all US Craigslist sites, postings to the 'erotic services' category will no longer be accepted, and in seven days the category will be removed," the San Francisco-based company said.
"Also effective today for all US sites, a new category entitled 'adult services' will be opened for postings by legal adult service providers," it added.
It said new postings will cost 10 dollars.
"We are optimistic that the new balance struck today will be an acceptable compromise," Craigslist said.
Craiglist has been under pressure for months from state law enforcement officials to drop its "erotic services" section which a state attorney general on Wednesday described as "nothing more than an Internet brothel."
The pressure intensified recently with the arrest of a medical student charged with murdering a woman who had posted an ad on Craigslist.
Philip Markoff, 22, has been charged with the murder of Julissa Brisman, 26, who offered massage services on Craigslist and was found shot dead on April 14 in a hotel room at the Boston Marriott.
Markoff is also a suspect in the case of a 29-year-old woman who advertised on Craigslist as an exotic dancer. She was robbed of her credit card and 800 dollars cash on April 10 from a room at a different hotel.
The case stirred a media frenzy in Boston amid the hunt for a so-called "Craigslist Killer" named after the website which advertises everything from houses to babysitters to furniture for sale.
Craigslist, which donated all of the profits from "erotic services" ads to charity, has insisted repeatedly that the site is relatively safe and did so again on Wednesday.
"Unsurprisingly, but completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic journalism we've seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of Craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds," it said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who was one of several state law enforcement officials pressuring Craigslist to shut down the "erotic services" category, said she was "encouraged" by the announcement.
"It's clear to everyone that Craigslist's erotic services section was nothing more than an Internet brothel," Madigan said in a statement.
"I'm encouraged that Craigslist has agreed to fundamentally change how they operate and monitor their site," she said. "The steps they?re taking are the only effective way to prevent the exploitation of women and children."
Madigan also said that nude or graphic photos would be banned in the new section, although this was not mentioned by Craigslist in their blog post.
Madigan was one of three US attorneys general who met with Craigslist representatives this month to discuss their concerns that the free online classified service is being used to advertise prostitution.