Craiglist vs. South Carolina: The Prostitution Ad Showdown

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Craigslist is going head-to-head with the state of South Carolina in what can only be described as a bizarre legal battle. The online classifieds company is suing Attorney General Henry McMaster because -- prepare yourself -- he threatened to file criminal charges over the site's sex-related ads.

This debacle's seen more tricks and turns than the Craigslist-advertising hookers themselves. Here's a look at the significant steps that led up to this point.

Craigslist's Sex Ads Struggle: A Complete Timeline
Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster
November 2008: Craigslist Cracks a Deal

Last November, Craigslist execs worked with attorneys general from 40 states to develop a new system for the site's "erotic services" section. The company agreed to start requiring advertisers to pay for spots in the category. Giving a credit card and phone number, CEO Jim Buckmaster (pictured) said, would "raise the accountability for people posting."

March 2009: Cook County Sues Craigslist

Despite the altered "erotic services" setup, Illinois' Cook County Sheriff's Office -- the nation's second largest department, encompassing Chicago -- filed a lawsuit against Craigslist accusing it of facilitating prostitution. The department said the '08 deal didn't do enough and called for the adult-oriented section to be shut down completely. It also asked for Craigslist to cover damages incurred by police investigating Craigslist-based prostitution arrangements. That cost, Cook County estimated, topped $100,000 between January and November 2008.

Craigslist, in response, called the charges "baseless" and stated it had no intentions of removing the adult-oriented category.

April 2009: The 'Craigslist Killer' Suspect Is Arrested

The debate grew even more intense when a Boston University student was arrested on accusations of murdering one woman and kidnapping another after locating them on Craigslist's "erotic services" section. Dubbed the case of the "Craigslist Killer," the arrest led opponents to cast further doubt onto the safety of the adult advertising section.

May 5, 2009: South Carolina Steps In

Early this month, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster announced plans to prosecute and criminally investigate Craigslist's executives if the company didn't pull the "erotic services" section from its site. Craigslist's CEO said he saw "no legal basis whatsoever for filing a lawsuit" and urged the attorney general to "look closely at the facts before proceeding with his threat."

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