Attorney General Retreats from Craigslist Suit

Hours after Craigslist filed a lawsuit against South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in South Carolina's federal court, McMaster issues a statement that suggests his office will back down from its threats of criminal prosecution. Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has been vigorous in defending his site against allegations that it serves as a front for prostitution.

Hours after Craigslist announced it would file a lawsuit against South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in that state's federal court, McMaster issued a statement that appears to be a retreat.

The Craigslist lawsuit, according to a corporate blog post by Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, asked for declaratory relief and a restraining order "with respect to criminal charges [McMaster] has repeatedly threatened against Craigslist and its executives."

In a statement issued through his office May 20, McMaster suggested that Craigslist's lawsuit was "good news" that showed the site was "taking the matter seriously for the first time."

The statement continued, "They are now taking responsibility for the content of their future advertisements. If they keep their word, this is a victory for law enforcement and for the people of South Carolina."

In addition, McMaster appeared to back off his previous threats of criminal prosecution.

"Unfortunately, we had to inform them of possible state criminal violations concerning their past practices to produce a serious response," the statement concluded. "We trust they will now adhere to the higher standards they have promised. This office and the law enforcement agencies of South Carolina will continue to monitor the site to make certain that our laws are respected."

In response to outcry from some quarters, Craigslist had promised to replace its Erotic Services category with an Adult Services section for which postings would be vetted. Buckmaster has claimed repeatedly over the past week that Craigslist's South Carolina adult postings are tame in comparison to those of other media.

"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 a May 18 letter demanding an apology from McMaster.

In a May 20 letter announcing his lawsuit, Buckmaster claimed that Craigslist operated in full compliance with all applicable laws, and had adopted screening measures far more stringent than those applied by McMaster.