Why Are AGs Targeting Craigslist Rather Than Newspapers Or Other Websites?

from the makes-no-sense... dept

With Craigslist caving on how it manages its “adult” ads, we’ve noted that some politicians are still angry, despite having been a part of the group that bought into the agreement Craigslist made with them six months ago. However, since this really has everything to do with two AGs who are running for governor of their states, rather than any real attempt to stop any illegal activity, they have to keep grandstanding. Henry McMaster, AG of South Carolina (and candidate for governor) has been among the worst, threatening to file criminal charges against Craigslist management to put them in jail. Of course, even the most basic legal analysis shows that McMaster has absolutely no case — and, in fact, the “deadline” that McMaster put in place last Friday came and went without McMaster actually doing anything.

However, he’s still talking a big game — and it looks like Craigslist has had enough of letting him get away with blaming them for everything. The company’s CEO, Jim Buckmaster, has taken to the Craigslist blog to ask why they’re being targeted when various newspapers in South Carolina have many more such “questionable” ads that are often a lot more explicit and graphic than those on Craigslist. The post lists out a variety of South Carolina newspapers and how many adult ads they have, noting that McMaster doesn’t seem to be going after any of them and threatening to throw their execs in jail. Following that, he put up a separate post asking for a retraction and an apology from McMaster for his misguided accusations.

Meanwhile, the folks over at Digg are making a really good point. If grandstanding politicians are going to blame Craigslist for those murders in Boston where the killer used Craigslist to find victims, how come now one is yelling “blame AOL!” after a woman was killed by a guy she met via AOL instant messenger. In this day and age, it’s quite depressing that people in positions of authority still seem to think the tool is to blame, rather than the individuals who use them.

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Comments on “Why Are AGs Targeting Craigslist Rather Than Newspapers Or Other Websites?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

@anonymous coward

You stated
“cl ads have been very explicit and direct newspaper ads are usually not. cl ads have images newspaper ads dont. cl had no idea who posts ads newspapers do.”
Poppycoack, the free papers at any cofee shop and on many street corners are JUST as explicit and HAVE pictures. Some in San Fran when I was there in early 90’s showed nudity and sexual acts.

The difference is the papers CHARGE, CL only started charging to give the money to the authorities. So which one shoudl be more laible? The free one or the one that recieves payment for the add? In our local phone book, I see ads for massage (non-licensed) and escorts, just as baudy as many CL ads.

There is one other difference too. In CL I only have to see the ads if I click the link, in a paper, that I am reading to kill time or to find out what is happening in town, I HAVE to be exposed to it. Now that CL capitualted, I now have to see them in the therapeutic section, so I have stopped goign to legitimate practitioners on CL, because I do nto accidently want to see the funny ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

You think this is a technology issue, it isn’t. The problem is grandstanding politicians who will say anything to get attention and get elected.

Our politicians do stupid things all the time, one would wonder if they really are that stupid.

Nancy P. was warned many times that going after “torture” would lead to bad things for her, over and over again, she could have read how this would come back to her. She just kept going and going. Now look at what is happening.

I mean, if you have your foot in the pond, you might not want to throw your toaster in the water. Didn’t she know what was coming?

TheStupidOne says:

Re: Re:

Escort Services are legal. The customer is paying for the escort’s time and company. If they decide to have sex during that time that was paid for then that’s up to them.

Same thing applies if you just sell time. For example if I have a house and let 4 female friends live in the bedrooms and they decide to charge people $100 an hour to be in their bedrooms alone with them then that is legal.

What is not legal is buying or selling sex or sexual gratification

dimitrios says:

Listen, what is happening today is no different than what was happening 200 years ago, a politician is grandstanding hoping for a little bit of publicity to get his name in the news.

Of course he knows that this is going nowhere, but he accomplished what he set out to do, get people thinking about him. He probably thinks this little grandstand is worth maybe a 1% bump in votes come election time. It is the sort of cheap and dirty tactics that all politicians use. It might be dirty, but history has shown again and again that dirty politics is what gets you votes. He knows he can’t bring charges against Craigslist, because it would probably lead to his disbarment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

@Anonymous Coward – May 18th, 2009 @ 11:09am
you said
“Craigslist execs should release some TV ads against these AGs and donate some significant campaign contributions to their opponents. That should shut them up.”

Nope you are wrong, what they should have done is turned off the ads in these cities with a disclaimer stating their view and a link to the constitution.
Then they would have had an OUTCRY, from EVERY person who wants thsi service in their city or state. Many CITIES are not represented, shut doen FLA, and make the people who use CL as a way to promote their business or find friends, call the AG’s.

That would have worked if they had the cahona’s.
Now they have watered down their service, forced teh illegal people to move to legitimate areas. Now when the legitimate therapists get harrassed even more, because of people used to getting “workign girls” on CL, they will leave, they are openign themselves up to someone else taking their market share.

Wikipedia is your friend... says:

All goes back to guns for hire...

From Wikipedia – Soldier of Fortune magazine…

“Gun for Hire” lawsuits

During the late 1980s, Soldier of Fortune was the subject of civil suits concerning the publication of classified advertisements for private mercenaries. In 1987, Norman Norwood of Arkansas sued SOF because of injuries he suffered during a murder attempt by two gunmen who were hired through their “Gun For Hire” ads in SOF. The United States District Court denied the magazine’s motion for summary judgment on First Amendment rights of free speech. The court stated that “reasonable jurors could find that the advertisement posed a substantial risk of harm” and that “gun for hire” ads were not the type of speech intended for protection under the First Amendment.[3] The case was settled out of court.[4]

The next case was filed after John Hearn shot and killed Sandra Black in exchange for $10,000 from her husband, Robert. Robert Black had contacted Hearn through a classified advertisement in Soldier of Fortune soliciting “high risk assignments. US or overseas.” In 1989, Sandra Black’s son Gary and her mother, Marjorie Eimann, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against SOF and its parent company, Omega Group Ltd, seeking $21 million in damages.[5] The jury found Soldier of Fortune grossly negligent in publishing Hearn’s classified ad for implicit illegal activity and awarded the plaintiffs a $9.5 million judgment. The verdict was reversed in 1990 by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the standard of conduct imposed upon the magazine was too high because the advertisement was ambiguously worded.[6][7]

In 1989, four men were convicted of murder conspiracy in the 1985 contract killing of Richard Braun of Atlanta. It was determined that the killers had been contacted through a classified ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine which stated “GUN FOR HIRE”. Braun’s sons filed a civil suit against the magazine and a jury found in their favor, awarding them $12.37 million in damages, later reduced by the judge to $4.37 million. The verdict was upheld in 1992 by the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which said “the publisher could recognize the offer of criminal activity as readily as its readers obviously did.”[4]

The 1992 case eventually was settled for $200,000.[8] As a consequence of the lawsuits, the magazine stopped running classified ads for mercenary work.[8]

joshua jones (profile) says:

Re: All goes back to guns for hire...

that is certainly some interesting information, but im not sure of its relevance. these arent ads selling hitmen, and its no victim that is threatening legal action. this is a supposed moral debate.

having read the links to the craigslist blog, its good to see them standing up and deciding they have had enough of the targeted aggression from mchenry and other AGs.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: All goes back to guns for hire...

Good argument but probably not relevant. SOF read and posted all of those adds in their magazine themselves. “Guns for Higher” is quite clear where as “high risk assignments” is not and the court agrees.

CL douse not read and manually post the adds. I could understand if there was an add on CL saying “Prostitute for higher” and CL having to take it down when it’s found (and there’s already a system to do that), but “Escort Service” isn’t clear.

Since all adds are posted by the user directly onto CL without any manual intervention then it falls under the safe harbors (at least until Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown have their way).

Jack Sombra says:

“In this day and age, it’s quite depressing that people in positions of authority still seem to think the tool is to blame, rather than the individuals who use them.”
They don’t, just criaglist is an better target than most to generate good headlines

*Targetng random “no name” web site does not generate headlines, period. Craiglist on the other hand is big enough to generate headlines but not big enough (or inclined) to toss 100 plus lawyers and lobbyists at the AG’s

*Print newspapers produce “news”, which can sway voters. Thus dangerous target to piss off

*Craiglist have a track record of capitulating, thus enabling the AG’s to look efective with little actual work required. CL quite litterly brought this on themselves.

Should be a top 10 rule of the internet business, if an AG/Politico is trying to control/limit you so he can grandstand, never give in and do not just fight him in the law courts but also in the court of public opinion.

Make it very very costly for him even if he wins, because if you capitulate, every other AG/Politico in the whole country will view you as a easy target to score cheap points and it will never ever end until you no longer exist

In these situations settling to avoid an expensive (win or lose) lawsuit/trial is totally the wrong tactic

Inanimate One says:


I thought it was Marilyn Manson’s fault. Either him or Metallica. I thought they were the cause of violence, school shootings, prostitution, and the overall demise of the family unit. Maybe I am mistaken. I know for a fact though that is not the person using the “tool” who should be to blame, that would place the responsibilty for one’s actions solely on that individual and that is just not fair.

Davey says:

Simple Answer:

invoking Craig’s list gets more publicity. It’s techy, it’s growing while the rest of the media declines, and it’s tied to that scary, alien Internet thing. The pols get to have their picture in the paper and the nightly news posturing about their concern about The Children while not actually doing a thing for them. Win-win for them and the lazy journalists.

Ben (user link) says:

Oral Flatulence from posturing puss gut politicians

Take yer pick:
“The children” (A winner every time)
“Gun control” (Depends where you live)
“Terrorism” (JACKPOT)
“Prostitution” (Till you get caught)
“The war on drugs” (Lets confiscate our new police car)
“911” (Always a crowd pleaser)
“Gay Marriage” (Depends where you live)
“Family values” (Talk much, say little)
“Support our troops” (Mom, apple pie & baseball)

AnonCow says:

I might ultimately get beat up for not forking over my lunch money to a bully, but I will inflict enough damage of my own to encourage the bully to find a more vulnerable target tomorrow and to serve as a deterrent for any other bullies that may have similar plans.

CL handed over their lunch money and stuck their own head in the toilet for the swirlie…

Anonymous Coward says:

They talk about how the adult services was oh so bad blah blah blah. What about the “Free Stuff” section where users just give out their address to anyone wanting the item. Hell instead of meeting you in a hotel room or somewhere I am coming to YOUR HOME and believe me thats a lot worse than some sex in a hotel with a woman but of course one person got hurt so instead of thinking “Hey this person just wasn’t careful” no its a lets ban it all because its evil. Robbing someones home, killing their family, etc. is a lot worse but yet Free Stuff is still there. The computer repair shit section which is flooded with scams and people who are getting scammed, yet its still there. There are a lot more potentially dangerous sections on CL yet nobody has said or done anything about them. I want any AG who might happen to wander through here to answer this.

bob says:

They Are Statists

As we as a nation move from a republic to a progressive state, The statists can at will shift blame from one thing to the next.
You see this with driving laws. Laws attempting to control a weed, that used to be grown commercially, to any number of things. One of them Firearms given an individual constitutional guaranty that the statists wish to violate at whim.

Nelson Cruz (profile) says:

Why don’t these AGs go after the phone companies? Aren’t criminal or otherwise illegal activities organized everyday using phones?

Even in these prostitution ads there are phone numbers potential clients use to get in touch with the “escorts”. If AGs are going to go after tools and services because people use them for illegal purposes, it seems to me phone company execs should be the first to be thrown in jail.

So why do phone companies and newspapers get a free ride on this issue? Does being old business give them immunity?

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