S.C. attorney general threatens action against Craigslist

Image by 20090505-porno.jpg Personal ads with pornographic images were easily accesable on the site on Tuesday. -- Image has been blurred.

Update May 6: Be sure to check out Craigslist's official response. In part:

We look forward to speaking directly with Attorney General McMaster about his concerns, and finding ways to address them without compromising the utility of craigslist for South Carolinians, or anyone’s Constitutional rights. However, we see no legal basis whatsoever for filing a lawsuit against craigslist or its principals and hope that the Attorney General will realize this upon further reflection.


We urge Attorney General McMaster to look closely at the facts before proceeding with his threat.

The State has also done a thorough write-up on the issue.

First reporting:

South Carolina's Attorney General Henry McMaster has had it up to here with the filth he sees on Craigslist.

Read more stories on this subject in our Craigslist topic page. He's joining with other state attorney generals and is threatening investigation and prosecution of the online classifieds giant unless they remove "the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material" with in 10 days.

McMaster says the action is spurred by recent national events along with ongoing disappointment that Craigslist has not lived up to its word of better safeguarding again prostitution and pornography.

Here's the full text of McMaster's letter to Craigslist:

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.

In my entirely non-professional opinion, I think they've got their work cut out for them against Craigslist. While there have been many national and international lawsuits won against sites designed for the illegal sharing of copyrighted material, those cases were largely won as the courts were swayed that the sites (or portions of them) had been set up primarily for the illegal sharing.

But in the case of Craigslist, there are many totally legitimate uses of the service's personals listings.

The New York Times recently put together an excellent piece that shows some of the more legitimate and iffy sides of the service.

Bonus: While Craigslist's postings are largely unmoinitered, classifieds in The Post and Courier are. Go have a look at their personals.

My favorite: "J Sportsman's Paradise Best Hands In Town ~Meg~ 843-###-#### * bl#23014"