Feeds

Judge shoots down challenge to Craigslist erotic services

Web 2.0 immunized

New hybrid storage solutions

A federal judge has summarily dismissed a lawsuit Chicago's sheriff brought against Craigslist, ruling that the website can't be sued for prostitution ads posted by its users.

The decision is a blow to Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Illinois's Cook County, who argued the erotic services section of Craigslist violated prostitution laws because it "arranges" meetings and "directs" people to places where sex is sold. Dart sought a court order requiring the site to close the section and to pay the costs his department incurred in cracking down on hookers and Johns who used the it.

The ruling by US District Judge John F. Grady is good news not only for Craigslist but for any US-based website that accepts comments, photos, or other types of user-submitted content. The 22-page decision made it clear that a provision in the CDA, or Communications Decency Act, fully immunizes the site for user-supplied ads even when they "provide" contact details for prostitutes and brothels.

"Craigslist does not 'provide' that information, its users do," Grady wrote. "'Facilitating' and 'assisting' encompass a broader range of conduct, so broad in fact that they include the services provided by intermediaries like phone companies, ISPs, and computer manufacturers. Intermediaries are not culpable for 'aiding and abetting' their customers who misuse their services to commit unlawful acts."

Grady flatly rejected Dart's claim that the the section was nothing more than a prostitution service or that it "induced" people to engage in the illegal trade. A woman offering erotic dancing services to male clients in the w4m, or women for men, section is an adult service that isn't prostitution, Grady wrote.

He went on to say that section 230(c)(1) of the CDA, which prevents websites from being held liable for the postings of their users, "would serve little if any purpose if companies like Craigslist were found liable under state law for 'causing' or 'inducing' users to post unlawful content in this fashion."

Over the past year, the Craigslist section has undergone several changes. Those posting ads must first register with the site using a computerized telephone verification routine and pay for each listing using a valid credit card. The site said the policy resulted in a 95-percent drop in erotic services listings. More recently, Craigslist bosses dropped the erotic services moniker and replaced it simply with adult services.

The ruling is the latest to interpret the CDA as offering broad protection to US-based websites for the illegal acts of their users. In March 2008, an appeals court reached much the same conclusion after a housing rights group sued Craigslist for apartment ads that discriminated against applicants based on race. And in July, a California state appeals court arrived at a similar result in a case involving underage MySpace users who were sexually assaulted.

Despite the steady stream of decisions, some government officials still haven't taken notice. Among them is South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who has claimed the CDA immunity provision doesn't apply to Craigslist. As Santa Clara law professor Eric Goldman points out there's something just a tad ironic when law enforcement officials who are sworn to uphold the law are schooled in the limits of their legal authority. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
'Serious flaws in the Vertigan report' says broadband boffin
Report 'fails reality test' , is 'simply wrong' and offers ''convenient' justification for FTTN says Rod Tucker
FAIL.GOV – Government asks Dropbox for accounts that don't exist
Storage locker's transparency report shows rise in government data gobble attempts
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.