Chicago (IL) – Craiglist has reportedly filed suit against South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. The company is seeking declaratory relief along with a restraining order to prevent the potential filing of criminal charges.
McMaster had presented Craigslist with an ultimatum “to remove the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina and its municipal regions which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material” within 10 days.
“If those South Carolina portions of the site are not removed,” threatened McMaster, “the management of craigslist may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.”
On May 15, McMaster decided to fulfill his controversial pledge.
“We opened an investigation as promised. We are preparing for a prosecution,” confirmed McMaster. “We are investigating. We are moving forward. The #1 defendant is Mr. Jim Buckmaster, who is the man in charge of Craigslist. Craigslist is a big promoter and facilitator of prostitution.”
Buckmaster has responded to McMaster’s allegations by claiming that the AG’s actions violate the right to free speech.
“In addition to being unwarranted by the facts, legal experts agree that the charges threatened represent an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, and are clearly barred by federal law (sec 230 CDA),” wrote Buckmaster. “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. 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.”
In addition, Buckmaster noted that Craigslist:
- Is operating in full compliance with all applicable laws.
- Earned a reputation for being unusually responsive to requests from law enforcement.
- Eliminated its “erotic services” category for all US cities.
- Adopted screening measures far stricter than those Mr McMaster himself personally endorsed with his signature just 6 months ago.
- Includes far fewer and tamer adult service ads than many mainstream print and online venues operating in South Carolina.
- Made available its representatives to hear Mr McMaster’s concerns in person.
- Has politely asked Mr McMaster to retract and apologize for his unreasonable threats.
“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,” concluded Buckmaster.