Craigslist Sues South Carolina in Preemptive Legal Strike

Craigslist Sues South Carolina in Preemptive Legal Strike
Turning the legal tables, Craigslist Inc. this morning filed a lawsuit against the attorney general of South Carolina for threatening to file criminal charges against the Web site.

Craigslist, a classified advertising site that is known for selling everything from toasters to escort services, said today it filed a lawsuit in federal court in South Carolina against Attorney General Henry McMaster. The company is seeking a restraining order and declaratory relief, which is a court's judgment on a party's rights without awarding damages or ordering anything to be done.

"In addition to being unwarranted by the facts, legal experts agree that the charges threatened represent an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, and are clearly barred by federal law," said Craigslist in a blog post. "Mr. McMaster's repeated threats of criminal prosecution should we refuse to shut down Craigslist for South Carolina have left us little choice but to seek declaratory relief before the court."

McMaster shot back this morning by calling the lawsuit good news for the state.

"It shows that Craigslist is taking the matter seriously for the first time," said the attorney general in a statement e-mailed to Computerworld. "More importantly, overnight they have removed the Erotic Services section from their Web site, as we asked them to do. And they are now taking responsibility for the content of their future advertisements. If they keep their word, this is a victory for law enforcement and for the people of South Carolina. Unfortunately, we had to inform them of possible state criminal violations concerning their past practices to produce a serious response."

The lawsuit is the latest action in a brouhaha that has encompassed Craigslist over the past several weeks.

Earlier this week, McMaster said efforts by Craigslist to eliminate racy ads aren't enough to halt his criminal investigation, a statement that prompted Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster to demand an apology.

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