South Carolina Wants To Put Craigslist Management In Jail?

from the craig-doesn't-strike-me-as-the-jailhouse-type... dept

In the latest in an increasingly long line of misplaced attacks on Craigslist, South Carolina’s Attorney General Henry McMaster is now threatening the company’s principals with criminal charges because of how some folks have used the site. Someone should send McMaster a copy of section 230 of the CDA. You would think that a state Attorney General might… you know… know the law, before threatening to put people in jail. McMaster, of course, is running for governor of the state, so he likely sees this as a grandstanding opportunity — just like he recently massively overhyped the risks of online predators. Someone else submitted the fact that McMaster also was so upset that a study that he (and most other state AGs) requested on the risks of online predators showed that the risks were greatly overstated that, rather than admit he was wrong, he withdrew from the workgroup studying the issue. This does not appear to be a fact-based individual. When presented with evidence, he simply says it can’t be true.

In this case, he’s accusing Craigslist of being involved with prostitution, even though plenty of other (smarter) law enforcement officials have recognized that Craigslist is actually a useful tool in fighting prostitution, rather than a problem. He also claims that Craigslist management may be criminally liable due to “sexually explicit” photos hosted on the site. Except… as the link above points out, as long as the content isn’t “obscene” (and McMaster presents no evidence that it is), then it’s perfectly legal, and protected by the First Amendment. The whole thing stinks of a politician grandstanding by displaying his own ignorance of both technology and the law… all while running for governor.

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Comments on “South Carolina Wants To Put Craigslist Management In Jail?”

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86 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“He also claims that Craigslist management may be criminally liable due to “sexually explicit” photos hosted on the site. Except… as the link above points out, as long as the content isn’t “obscene” (and McMaster presents no evidence that it is), then it’s perfectly legal, and protected by the First Amendment.”

Pretty sure this is considered “sexually explicit” and “obscene”

http://newyork.craigslist.org/que/m4w/1157552332.html

That took me all of about 15 seconds to find.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re:

“Pretty sure this is considered “sexually explicit” and “obscene””

By your definition, maybe. Certainly it is explicit by defeinition, but what is the definition of “obscene”?

1. offensive to morality or decency; indecent; depraved: obscene language.
2. causing uncontrolled sexual desire.
3. abominable; disgusting; repulsive.

Every single one of those is subjective. How in the world are you going to ethically legislate something that is SUCH a variance? Pedophilia is one thing, where your talking about such small percentages, but morality? Decency? Uncontrolled sexual desire? Disgusting/repulsive? You’re going to be talking about a wide variance here, and those of us who believe in freedom do not think it is right to legislate against it, nor to hold those who merely allow for such material to be held criminally responsible.

Alligator says:

Re: Re: Re:

You left our the legal definition of “obscene,” which is material that:
(a) “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, and
(b) depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

This definition comes from Miller v. California, a 1973 Supreme Court case. Obscenity is not actionable unless state law prohibits it, and a state may only prohibit material that meets this definition.

Craigslist would probably be liable under SC state law for distributing obscene material, but the CDA 230 clearly preempts that.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The damn problem is that the “average person” can’t even interpret the legal definition you just cited! How fucked up is that? And since the law, in its infinite stupidity, has decided that the defenition should include ANOTHER subjective thing, “the average person”, we’re no closer to an answer.

Unless you have this average person somewhere close by and we can ask him/her.

BTR1701 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

> applying contemporary community standards”

This is the huge stumbling block in that definition when it comes to the internet. You’re dealing with a medium that goes everywhere instantaneously. Which community’s standards apply?

The community of the person who authors the site?

The community of the person who views the site?

The millions of communities in between?

Should the most sexually repressed religious fundamentalists out there have a veto power over the internet because their particular community views even the most beign G-rated material offensive?

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Upon reflection, Craigslist does not make money directly off of the sex classifieds, because it doesn’t charge for such listings.

Craiglists does even make any money indirectly off the sex classifieds via advertising, as Craigslist does not have such advertising.

Craiglist makes money solely on the sale of it rental listings.

So exactly how are the owners of Craigslist guilty of facilitating prostitution? It’d be like arresting a shop owner merely because a prostitute hangs out in front of his store. Or like arresting the owner of a phone company because the prostitute uses the phone to contact her johns.

In other words, even without the protections of 230 of the CDA, this legal threat makes absolutely no sense.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ima Fish, a hotel that has prostitutes use their premise can get shut down.

Which makes sense because the prostitutes and their johns are paying the hotel for their services. Neither the prostitutes nor the johns are paying craigslist.

The bar doesn’t make money off the drug dealers, but how are they liable also?

If the bar allows drug dealing and it brings in customers, then indirectly it is benefiting from the dealing. Craigslist is not benefiting even indirectly from the sex ads.

This is more like my phone or sidewalk example. Merely because someone deals drugs in front of your house, should you be arrested too? Merely because someone uses a phone to deal drugs, should the owner of the phone company be arrested too?

yozoo says:

The only thing you KNOW for sure

“You would think that a state Attorney General might… you know… know the law”

The only thing you can be sure about ANYONE who is Attorney General of a state, is that they really really want to be governor. This is yet another case of a white night trying desperately to find an evil dragon he can slay in the press in hopes of propelling him to that next office up.

John Doe says:

With what is being done to Pirate Bay and all the talk about Google (copyright infringement), Craigslist (prostitution), MySpace (child predators), I don’t know why anyone would want to start and internet based business? When are politicians and prosecutor’s going to realize they are going to shutdown the internet and the economy if they don’t start using common sense before they run their mouths or bring charges?

Overcast says:

Ima Fish, a hotel that has prostitutes use their premise can get shut down. A bar that has drug dealing going on can get shut down.

That may well be all of them. I’m positive the ‘high end’ hotels have plenty of their share of drug use and hookers as well. It’s really none of the Hotel’s business who the ‘lady’ you are with is. It could be your wife, girlfriend, business associate, or a hooker – how should they know and why would it even be their business as long as you are following the hotel’s rules otherwise.

But really – Prostitution and Drug deals happen on city streets more commonly than anywhere else, I would suspect.

So why isn’t the city liable?

Bill says:

“The whole thing stinks of a politician grandstanding by displaying his own ignorance of both technology and the law… all while running for governor.”

Which is exactly what we should expect from a politician these days. As long as we dont start telling them they are wrong and even keep rewarding their behavior by electing them, they have no incentive to stop being retards

Carlito says:

JAIL THE MAKERS OF CONCRETE!!!!

I’m running for governor of my state, and it is commonly known that prostitues show off their wares and solicit their clients on curbs, which are made of concrete. Many drug dealers also choose concrete curbs to peddle their drugs. Concrete is eating away at the very core of our society, and it must be stopped. I will make it my mission to find every member of management in any company that manufactures concrete criminally liable for all illicit activity that happens outside, and have them put in jail to rot.

yozoo says:

Re: JAIL THE MAKERS OF CONCRETE!!!!

“I’m running for governor of my state, and it is commonly known that prostitues show off their wares and solicit their clients on curbs, which are made of concrete. Many drug dealers also choose concrete curbs to peddle their drugs. Concrete is eating away at the very core of our society, and it must be stopped. I will make it my mission to find every member of management in any company that manufactures concrete criminally liable for all illicit activity that happens outside, and have them put in jail to rot.”

Your a terrible politician and you need a consultant. There is nothing more boring then concrete, wage a war on concrete and youll be lucky to get a paragraph on the back page of your locals metro section. You need to go after something “Sexy”, something “new” and preferrably internet related so you can protect the children from the unkown hazards of freely exchanged ideas. Then my friend, then you have a pretend scourge worth fighting.

Overcast says:

I’m running for governor of my state, and it is commonly known that prostitues show off their wares and solicit their clients on curbs, which are made of concrete. Many drug dealers also choose concrete curbs to peddle their drugs. Concrete is eating away at the very core of our society, and it must be stopped. I will make it my mission to find every member of management in any company that manufactures concrete criminally liable for all illicit activity that happens outside, and have them put in jail to rot.

Using the same logic as the AG of South Carolina I see… 🙂

Nelson Cruz (profile) says:

Prostitution still illegal??

When is the US going to join the rest of the civilized and free world and legalize prostitution? Is it the land of the free, or saudi arabia??

Here in Portugal it’s not really a recognized profession (so prostitutes don’t pay taxes and have no social security), and brothels are illegal, but prostitution itself is not illegal. Prostitutes openly advertise on the classified ads of major daily newspapers, and of course online.

yozoo says:

Re: Prostitution still illegal??

“When is the US going to join the rest of the civilized and free world and legalize prostitution? Is it the land of the free, or saudi arabia??”

Prostitution is NOT illegal in the United States, there is no Federal Law about it. It’s a states issue and Nevada for example does have legal prostitution (although not in Las Vegas which is a great example of the hypocritical dichotomy that is our society).

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re: Re:

As everyone knows, the RIAA released a report yesterday definitively establishing (as best as I can understand) that Cloud Computing has been corrupted by Al Qaeda to create a massive Greenhouse Effect over the coastal regions of America, thereby displacing millions that live along the coasts.

The 452 page report which I read in an hour yesterday, goes on, stating that these insidious “clouds” that exist in the air above the country, thanks to totally unregulated wireless communications, are actually made up of copyrighted files, and have gotten so thick because of rampant filesharing that they, having been mistaken for birds, are what caused the airplane to crash into the Hudson when they swirled into the engines.

Anonymous Coward says:

South Carolina - That says it all

Just look at all of the uninformed political comments, stupid lawsuits and judicial decisions that come out of SC.
South Carolina – where facts don’t matter, local and federal judges are bought and paid for years (generations?) in advance and politicians look up to the confederate flag … and Rob Blagojevich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: South Carolina - That says it all

“Just look at all of the uninformed political comments, stupid lawsuits and judicial decisions that come out of SC.”

yeah if it wasnt for Texas, SC would easily be about the stupidest state in the union – judging by who they elect anyway. Although Alabama and Mississippi are pretty close. I mean does Mississippi still have a life long lobbyist as its governor LOL – talk about fox in the hen house – it would be like making Mike Tyson the house mother at your daughters boarding school . . . god those people are stupid there is no nice way to say it)

mike says:

Re: Re: South Carolina - That says it all

hey now, we in Louisiana have a lock on the dumbest voters in the U.S.

Think Diaper Dan Vitter and Dollar Bill Jefferson, if you don’t know Vitter is the right wing family value guy who got re-elected after positive evidence emerged that he paid prostitutes to change his soiled nappy, and $Bill is the moron who barely lost re-election after the feds raided his Govt Office and his home to find 90K U.S. in his freezer in a fish stick box. He claims it is natural for people in Louisiana to keep that much cold cash on hand (state with less than 35k median income)

so lets not pull out them them “my state is worse than your state cards, Louisiana trumps all in stupidity”

Coach George (profile) says:

This does not appear to be a fact-based individual

“This does not appear to be a fact-based individual. When presented with evidence, he simply says it can’t be true.”
He is a politician for crying out loud! The facts don’t mean anything!
The charges will never be brought unless the trial can be delayed until after the election. If CL was smart, they would bring a legal action to court, highly publicized, timed to coincide with just before the election. When the facts are brought out in court, it will kill his grandstanding.

Al says:

grandstanding politicians

“This does not appear to be a fact-based individual. When presented with evidence, he simply says it can’t be true.”
He is a politician for crying out loud! The facts don’t mean anything!
The charges will never be brought unless the trial can be delayed until after the election. If CL was smart, they would bring a legal action to court, highly publicized, timed to coincide with just before the election. When the facts are brought out in court, it will kill his grandstanding.And stop his advancement any higher in the food chain.Get a clue Mr. Attorney General!

Anonymous Coward says:

A: That isn’t my willy, I would need a wide angle camera to post that.

B: South Carolina is pretty cool, great golf courses.

How would you like it if in your town, there was a street where there were nude pictures up in store windows? Pictures of willies like the one posted here (but much smaller than mine)? How would you like it if your kids walked down that street? Should something like that be allowed?

That is what the Internet is. Sure, you can watch your kids to know what they do on the web, just like making sure they don’t walk down that street, but should you have to?

Alligator says:

Re: Re:

I hope you’re being sarcastic and I’m not catching it. The erotic services section of Craigslist is nothing like a store window on a public street. You might need to pass a store on you way to another destination. In contrast, there is no reason anyone would have to see the postings in a Craigslist erotic services section unless they clicked the section link, saw the warning and disclaimer page, and then clicked through to the postings.

mike says:

Re: Re:

ahhh them more accurate question is why should the rest of society be held responsible for monitoring YOUR child?

if (the hypothetical) you brought it into this world (or adopted it) it is up to YOU and YOU alone to guide what the child sees, does and experiences.

(the hypothetical) YOU cannot foist your lack of desire to supervise your child onto me or anyone else.

the pathetic part is that we can regulate driving a car, getting a drink, or getting married, but the most critical choice an adult can make (breeding a copy of itself) is not only completely unregulated, it takes less instinct (or skill) to spawn than it does to take care of a gold fish.

twowords (profile) says:

You would think that a state Attorney General might… you know… know the law, before threatening to put people in jail.The whole thing stinks of a politician grandstanding by displaying his own ignorance of both technology and the law… all while running for governor.

as a state AG he is 1 of 2 things elected or appointed as in both cases you do not need to know the law. same reason he can run for governor, does not need to know what to do just sound good to get the job. he sounds like the perfect politico.

Michael Bolcerek (user link) says:

Age Verify Erotic Services

There are simple things that Craigslist can do to answer some of these changes with slight changes to the entry screen that could check for Registered Sex Offenders, and underage access as “service providers” or viewers.

http://web.me.com/bolcerek/Bolcerek.com%3A__Michael_Bolcerek/Blog/Entries/2009/5/7_Erotic_Services_with_Age_Verification_and_Registered_Sex_Offenders.html

mike says:

Re: Age Verify Erotic Services

your post is non-responsive and does nothing to enhance the discussion.

1) it is not an age verification issue, the number of tweens buying prostitutes is abysmally small.
2) gift cards and prepaid debit cards can be gotten by anyone of any age, all they have to do is lie on the app to get it. oh and beat their parents to the mailbox.
3) registered sex offenders are certainly NOT the only group of people paying/posting/selling erotic services ads, in fact very few are! the hundreds of millions of pageviews on CL from around the globe tell ya that.
4) the issue is that a politician in SC is trying to grandstand and blame CL for prostitution, aiding before the fact, and abetting a crime. This despite constitutional law that protects them from such prosecution.

so please stay on topic and stop trying to advertise your blog. very lame.

The Webninja (user link) says:

Craigslist people should Charge Christians with Hate Crimes!

Christians are always jumping up and down about Prostitution, and “Predators” but here’s the Facts:
I am broke, homeless, and I don’t see any Movie Stars or Models chasing after ME, which proves that ALL Women are Prostitutes in some form or another. Women Marry and get into Relationships for MONEY. Not one Woman Dates Homeless Men as far as I know, cause where I live there are THOUSANDS of Homeless, and I never see them going on any Dates with the Models and Movie Stars and Female Power Players. So this Proves ALL Women are Prostitutes. Therefore trying to throw someone in Jail for something that is Common Practice among the Majority of Society is a Hate Crime.
Prosecute the Christians for Hate Crimes!

Secondly the Christians coin this Term “Predator” to imply that anyone who looks for a Date is a “Predator” because to the Christians Sex is Evil. So desiring Sex is also Evil which makes Dating Evil. So they try to damn and Outcast the Demons who try to Date because of their Distorted beliefs based on Lies and Fairy Tales. This is a Hate Crime! Prosecute the Christians for HATE CRIMES!

Christians also try to Demonize Photographers, even if they only do Swim Suit pics they call them Perverts and other words of Hate to try to demonize them. This is a Hate Crime, Prosecute the Christians for Hate Crimes!

In California the Christians influenced the Laws and Voted NO on Prop 8 Legalizing Discrimination against Gays and Lesbians. This is a HATE Crime! Prosecute the Christians for HATE CRIMES!

Jamie says:

Definitely agree with the original blog post. McMaster, like Connecticut’s Blumenthal, is ranting about Craigslist in large part because it gets him attention. Moreover, since the company doesn’t charge for listings and therefore isn’t profiting from this in any way, the general public doesn’t care at all.

A huge number of people aren’t even clear as to why prostitution is illegal–if we dug into it, we’d find that it’s just a holdover from the country’s Puritanical roots without a public-good motivation–and that it of all things is getting the majority of law enforcement attention these days infuriates them.

And it should infuriate them! Sexual slavery is already quite illegal with or without the exchange of money, and there’s something very wrong about a society that both grants women the right to abortion of account of reproductive freedom and produces most of the world’s pornography for open distribution as a free-speech issue but rails against choosing sex as day labor.

Scott says:

Craigslist regulation

The bigger issue here is that the Government needs to STOP LEGISLATING MORALITY! War on drugs, prostitution, liquor, it’s ridiculous in a country that calls itself free; even, and especially, same-sex marriage. America is rotting from the inside out: no education, our infrastructure is crumbling, corrupt banking systm, etc. However, our lazy, good-for-nothing lawmakers go after the easy crap that tug at emotions and have no real substance as to [re]building America. I’d like to see elected officials start doing something tangible instead of launching these cheap, do-nothing moral crusades. Unfortunately, the majority of the people in this nation are STUPID and fall for it, instead of clamoring for more effective legislation as they should be to start tackling the issues that really mean something!

Scott says:

Craigslist regulation

The bigger issue here is that the Government needs to STOP LEGISLATING MORALITY! War on drugs, prostitution, liquor, it’s ridiculous in a country that calls itself free; even, and especially, same-sex marriage. America is rotting from the inside out: no education, our infrastructure is crumbling, corrupt banking systm, etc. However, our lazy, good-for-nothing lawmakers go after the easy crap that tug at emotions and have no real substance as to [re]building America. I’d like to see elected officials start doing something tangible instead of launching these cheap, do-nothing moral crusades. Unfortunately, the majority of the people in this nation are STUPID and fall for it, instead of clamoring for more effective legislation as they should be to start tackling the issues that really mean something!

Tom Harwood says:

Ignorance

Wow – your ignorance is clear from even where I sit. Craigslist promotes prostitution. It’s plain and simple, you moron – they allow hookers to post ads on their site, advertising their services, and they charge a fee for it. They are promoting prostitution. And you think the risk on online predators is overhyped? You are clearly an idiot and way out of your league out here. Numerous assaults and murders each year are attributed to internet predators, not to mention child abductions and abuses. You need to do some research, and I don’t mean just the Google kind.

Idiot.

Saeed says:

Legalize it

You can give it away for free. You can legally pay to watch it. It’s legal in many areas to pay “actors” or “models” to do it in front of a camera. It’s been around since the beginning of time and making it illegal has never stopped it. So wouldn’t it make more sense to just legalize prostitution so that the government can help regulate it and tax it.

Scott says:

Craigslist Regulation

“And this is how liberty ends…with thunderous applause”. My guess is that Tom’s one of those bible-banger HypoChristiaNazis, that tries to vomit HIS idea of morality onto everyone. Remember Tom, child predation exists in schools and especially the Catholic Church, should we close them down as well. You’re concentrating on a few bad examples to proove a point; THAT’s is ignorant in that you only look at one side. You must watch Fox News…A LOT! It’s actually called hyperbole, and preys on the emotions of the ignorant, uneducated masses.

CJordan (user link) says:

Moron

This guy’s an idiot. There’s a million dating sites out there which serve the same purpose for prostitutes. Not to mention, craigslist has a Personals section, which they will all move to. This keeps some prostitutes off the streets, and eliminates the need for pimps, so I don’t see what the big deal is. What a moron. It’s a shame that we vote idiots into our political positions.

Glenda Lawson says:

Atty General

McMaster is such a D—-A– all he wants to do is try to get feathers in his hat, he is BAD news for SC. I have a brother in jail in Horry Co SC and at this point I think he is being held as a political prisoner because, McMasters,lawyers,banks and a lot of high officials are making sure my brother does not get a chance to expose all of them to a ponzi scheme of taking peoples homes. My brother needs a good intelligent attorney if there are any,
one that likes a challenge.The one that was appointed to him is totally sorry and is scared of Mcmasters. My brothers constitutional rights have and are being violated in every way possible, and he wants to file millions of lawsuits in federal court if he can get a probono attorney,somebody needs to stop McMasters, and with help my brother can pull the rug right out from under him

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