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South Carolina AG counterpunches Craigslist suit

Fears 'Murder for Hire' classifieds

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South Carolina's top prosecutor is asking a federal judge to dismiss a complaint against him by Craigslist over his dangling threats to sue the website for hosting prostitution-related ads.

Attorney General Henry McMaster claims in papers filed Tuesday that Craigslist is not protected under federal law that frees an interactive computer service provider from liability of content posted by third-parties.

"This case does not involve actions of an interactive computer service provider to block or screen objectionable materials. On the contrary, the Attorney General has merely stated an intent to investigate and potentially prosecute Plaintiff for its knowing facilitation of prostitution in South Carolina by allowing the continued use of its website to advertise prostitution," McMaster's motion to dismiss states.

The Attorney General argues federal law should not protect Craigslist from criminal prosecution for "knowingly aided and abetting prostitution in South Carolina."

In early May, McMaster gave Craigslist a 10-day ultimatum to remove all 'erotic services' listings servicing South Carolina or face a criminal investigation and possible charges. Eight days after the threat, Craigslist announced it was closing the section and would replace it with a new section where each posting would be manually reviewed.

When McMaster announced he would still follow through with a criminal investigation, Craigslist filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order against further threats.

"If [Craigslist] prevails in this action, however, its websites will become the functional equivalent of the 'Wild West' with the only law being the federal marshal, who enforces federal law when he happens to pass through town," McMaster's motion claims. "[Craigslist] will be free to develop categories such as 'Murder for Hire,' 'Preferred Prostitutes,' or 'Drug Supermarket,' with absolute impunity, and states will be helpless to stop the resulting destruction and chaos within their borders." ®

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