Craigslist Suing South Carolina Attorney General

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-05-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Craigslist has filed a lawsuit against South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in that state's federal court, seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order. Despite Craiglist's promise to remove its Erotic Services category, McMaster has threatened to criminally prosecute the site, leading to an escalating war of words between him and Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.

On May 20, two days after demanding an apology from South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster for the latter's threats of prosecution, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster announced in corporate blog posting that the popular community-posting site would be filing a lawsuit against McMaster in South Carolina federal court.

Specifically, Craigslist is seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order "with respect to criminal charges he has repeatedly threatened against craigslist and its executives," Buckmaster wrote in the blog post.

"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," Buckmaster added. "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."

The 'ultimatum' to which he refers was a statement, posted over the weekend on the South Carolina Attorney General's Web site, which refers to Craigslist's alleged refusal to remove "advertisements for prostitution and graphic pornographic material" and threatens to "move forward with criminal investigation and potential prosecution."  

"Mr McMaster's repeated threats of criminal prosecution should we refuse to shut down craigslist for South Carolina have left us little choice but to seek declaratory relief before the court," Buckmaster added.

Craigslist has already promised to remove the 'Erotic Services' category from its site this week, in response to protests. In its place, the site plans to introduce an Adult Services section, whose postings will be individually reviewed.

In previous blog postings, Buckmaster has repeatedly claimed that Craigslist's South Carolina adult postings are tame, especially when compared to the adult content available through newspapers and other online sites.   

"Our 'Adult Services' and soon-to-be-retired 'Erotic Services' sections combined, for all cities in South Carolina, currently feature a total of 40 ads, all of which comply with our terms of use," Buckmaster wrote in his May 18 letter demanding an apology from McMaster, who is reportedly considering a gubernatorial run. "That's 40 ads out of a total of 334,180 currently listed on our S.C. sites. The rest comprise a thriving marketplace for South Carolinians, offering jobs, housing, for-sale items, local services and just about everything else."

In the letter announcing the suit, Buckmaster claims that Craigslist is operating in full compliance with all applicable laws, has been "unusually responsive" to past requests from law enforcement, and has adopted screening measures far more stringent than those applied by McMaster to potentially criminal material.

The letter also states that usage of Craigslist in South Carolina has experienced explosive growth over the last two years, including community growth approaching 2000 percent in certain cities.

 
 
 
 
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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