Craigslist’s CEO has come out swinging against the South Carolina attorney who has threatened criminal prosecution against the online classifieds site for failing to remove pornographic images and ads for prostitution.
In a feisty blog post entitled “An Apology Is in Order,” Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster pointed to a laundry list of other sites advertising more numerous and explicit ads for adult escort services.
“Many prominent companies, including AT&T, Microsoft and Village Voice Media, not to mention major newspapers and other upstanding South Carolina businesses feature more “adult services” ads than does Craigslist, some of a very graphic nature,” Buckmaster wrote.
“Are you really prepared to condemn the executives of each of the mainstream companies linked above, and all the others that feature such ads, as criminals?”
On Friday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said he plans to pursue a criminal investigation that could lead to a prosecution of Craigslist for failing to remove the objectionable ads from the South Carolina sections of the site.
That followed the 10-day ultimatum McMaster issued on May 5, in the midst of the media frenzy surrounding the Boston medical student charged with murdering a woman he met through the online classifieds site.
“This content was not removed as we requested,” McMaster said in a statement. “We have no alternative but to move forward with criminal investigation and potential prosecution.”
In response to pressure from a broad coalition of state attorneys general following the Boston murder, Craigslist announced last week its plans to drop the erotic services section of its site, a move which drew praise from Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general who had been leading the group.
Craigslist also created the new section called “adult services,” which it said it would monitor manually for pornographic images and posts that were blatantly advertising prostitution.
Of course, the erotic services section is not the only part of the site where ads of the type the attorneys general find objectionable are found. Ads with graphic images and suggestive language can still be found on the casual encounters section, though Craigslist maintains that it continues to deploy technical filters to scrub objectionable content from the site.
McMaster’s charges against Craigslist over prostitution and pornography have drawn criticism from digital-rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, which have dismissed the attorney general’s actions as grandstanding, and have offered legal arguments in Craigslist’s defense.
Mark Plowden, a spokesman for McMaster, declined to comment on Buckmaster’s claim that Craigslist is being singled out, but said that the attorney general still plans to move ahead with the criminal investigation against Craigslist.
“Nothing has changed,” Plowden told InternetNews.com.
Craigslist is also facing a lawsuit over the prostitution issue in federal court brought by Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Thomas Dart.