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US prosecutor orders Craigslist 'erotic listings' shutdown

Plug prostitution postings or be probed

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A US prosecutor has told Craigslist that if it doesn't take down all "erotic listings" within 10 days, it will face a criminal investigation and possible charges.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said today he's sent an open letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster demanding the site immediately shutter all listings for his state that he sees as encouraging prostitution. If the classifieds aren't gone by 5:00 PM on Friday, Craiglist management may be probed and prosecuted, McMaster postured.

"Many of the classified and communication services on the Craigslist site provide the public with a valuable service," he wrote to Buckmaster. "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 40 state attorneys general."

Craigslist entered a pact late last year with dozens of states' top prosecutors to "help combat unlawful activity and improve public safety on the web site." Law officials claim the website is a hotbed for illegal prostitution and must implement new screening policies such as telephone and credit card verification before users are allowed to post an "erotic services" listing.

Craigslist made the changes, and in March, boasted a "spectacular" 95 per cent reduction in the volume of erotic ads. But McMaster said he doesn't believe Craigslist has done enough to curb online ads-of-negotiable-virtue or "graphic pornographic material" accessible by impressionable tots.

Bruckmaster responded to the warnings in the Craigslist blog today, saying the site's counsel sees "no legal basis whatsoever for filing a lawsuit against craigslist or its principals."

Given the progress that has been made dealing with these tremendously complex issues in a very short time, and the ongoing collaboration between craigslist and law enforcement to make further improvements, we urge Attorney General McMaster to look closely at the facts before proceeding with his threat.

McMaster's legal ire would join Chicago's sheriff, Thomas Dart, who filed a lawsuit against the site in March claiming prostitution listings are straining his department's ability to enforce the law.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, has also been forced to publicly defend the site's "erotic listings" recently amongst sensationalistic coverage of the so-called "Craigslist murder."

A copy of McMaster's letter to Craigslist is available here as a PDF. ®

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