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Craigslist Hits Back at South Carolina AG


Policy Fugue by Kenneth Corbin (bio)

Tracking the loveless marriage of technology and government


Craigslist and sex ads
This saga just gets more and more interesting.

Craigslist, in the face of increasingly shrill (and politically charged) calls to close the valve for prostitution on its site, has filed suit against one of its more vocal critics: South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster.

McMaster has been rattling his saber against Craigslist, threatening criminal prosecution if the site didn't scrub all the objectionable postings -- those with pornographic images or obvious ads for prostitution -- from the South Carolina sections of the site by 5 pm May 15. In the meantime, Craigslist announced plans to shutter its erotic services section, but a few ads remained by the close of McMaster's ultimatum, and he announced plans to move ahead with his criminal prosecution.

Now Craigslist is suing in federal court for declaratory relief and asking for a restraining order to keep the attorney general at bay.

In a blog post, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster claims that McMaster's case is both "unwarranted by the facts" and unconstitutional.

"Interestingly, if you read Mr. McMaster's ultimatum carefully, you'll note that the only way to definitively comply with it is to take down the Craigslist sites for South Carolina in their entirety. The open architecture of Craigslist, quintessential to the value it provides for users, simply does not allow for the absolute prevention of solicitation or pornography, with respect to any of its categories and functions."

In a statement, McMaster put a cheery face on Craigslist's move.

"The defensive legal action Craigslist has taken against the solicitors and my office is good news. It shows that Craigslist is taking the matter seriously for the first time."

Of course, Buckmaster has pointed out several times that McMaster was one of 40 state attorneys general who signed on to a set of policy changes Craigslist announced in November to scrub the site of illicit sex ads.

But McMaster and others have since complained that Craigslist failed to live up to the spirit of that agreement, and that prostitution has continued to flourish on the site.

Not helping things was the high-profile murder in Boston earlier this year, where medical student Philip Markoff allegedly shot and killed a masseuse he met through the site, and was quickly dubbed the "Craigslist killer" in the media...

[Continue reading this blog post at Policy Fugue by Kenneth Corbin]