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South Carolina Gives Craigslist Ultimatum: Remove Prostitution Or Face Criminal Charges

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The various state attorneys general have focused like a laser on Craigslist these past weeks. Like most politicians hoping to get reelected, Attorneys General tend to follow the press and jump in front of any parade they see.

Years ago if a crime was committed and anyone involved had a MySpace account, the press focused only on the MySpace angle. The attorneys general went after them with a vengeance. Then it was Facebook, who managed to stay in the spotlight only momentarily.

Now Craigslist is firmly in the AGs’ sites. And those AGs aren’t going to just sit by and do nothing as mainstream press paints a horrifying picture of sexual debauchery and murder. There’s easy press out there for the taking, people, and these AGs aren’t going to let this opportunity pass them by.

Earlier today Henry McMaster, the Attorney General of South Carolina, wrote to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. The letter, copied below, starts with “I hope you will take immediate steps to end craigslist from being used to facilitate harmful activities in South Carolina.” It ends with a threat of “criminal investigation and prosecution” if ads for prostitution aren’t removed from the South Carolina parts of craigslist by this Friday.

McMaster also expressed concern that pornographic images were displayed on Craigslist and were accessible by minors.

Craigslist responded on their blog without saying much.

We’ll put the pornography issue aside as purely ridiculous (see Google image search and all the rest of the smut filled Internet). But the recent “Craigslist Murder” of a prostitute (or massage therapist, whatever) is going to be too much for Craigslist to overcome. The AGs will salivate over a lawsuit, which equates to press and votes and has no downside.

The erotic services category on Craigslist is likely history sometime soon. And, alarmingly, anonymity on the site in general may follow not too long afterwards.

Here’s the letter:

HENRY McMASTER
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Mr. Jim Buckmaster
CEO, craigslist
1381 9th Avenue
San Francisco, California 94122

I hope you will take immediate steps to end craigslist from being used to facilitate harmful activities in
South Carolina.

As you are aware, in November 2008 you entered into an agreement with forty state attorneys general and
the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to install safeguards to combat unlawful activity and
improve public safety on the craigslist internet classified service. This occurred after law enforcement officers
across the country called attention to the misuse of the craigslist site to facilitate unlawful activity.

Recent national events, along with ongoing law enforcement efforts in South Carolina, indicate that
craigslist has not installed sufficient safeguards since November to prohibit the Internet site from being used as a vehicle to advertise or solicit prostitution.

Also of concern is the unrestricted manner in which graphic pornographic pictures are posted and displayed
by users on the craigslist site and their accessibility to minors.

Many of the classified and communication services on the craigslist site provide the public with a valuable
service. However, it appears that the management of craigslist has knowingly allowed the site to be used for illegal and unlawful activity after warnings from law enforcement officials and after an agreement with forty state attorneys general.

Therefore, please be advised that the craigslist management may be subj ect to criminal investigation and
prosecution by this office if the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina and its municipal regions and which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material are not permanently removed on or before 5:00pm EST, the close of business Friday May 15,2009.

Yours very truly,

Henry McMaster

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