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Federal judge muzzles Craigslist-threatening AG

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A federal judge has ruled South Carolina's attorney general must keep his mouth shut about threatening to prosecute Craigslist over ads for prostitution.

US District Judge Weston Houck granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary judgment against Attorney General Henry McMaster on Friday to "refrain from initiating or pursuing any prosecution against craigslist or its officer" in regards to content posted on the site.

McMaster is currently the subject of a lawsuit from Craigslist over his publicized threats to launch a criminal investigation against the online classified website for allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution.

Two weeks ago, McMaster demanded Craigslist remove the site's "adult services" listings for South Carolina within 10 days or face possible criminal prosecution.

Eight days after the threat, Craigslist announced it would shutter the category on May 20 and replace it with a new section where each posting would be manually reviewed. When McMaster announced he would still continue pursing a criminal investigation, Craiglist filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief against such action.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster claims the website isn't liable for content posted by third parties based on First Amendment free speech rights and under Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 essentially states that providers of interactive computer services aren't considered publishers of information provided by their users for purposes of legal liability.

McMaster, who is considering a run for governor next year, intriguingly declared the lawsuit against his office "good news," saying it "shows that craiglist is taking the matter seriously for the first time."

Both McMaster and Craigslist have agreed to the judge's restraining order. ®

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