South Carolina yesterday became the latest state to threaten Craigslist with criminal charges over the site’s “erotic services” section. Yesterday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster warning the site to remove the “erotic services” category from Craigslist’s South Carolina classified ads section or face possible criminal investigation and prosecution. McMaster believes Craigslist has failed to prohibit its “erotic services” section from being used as a “vehicle to advertise or solicit prostitution” — a criminal act in South Carolina. McMaster has given Craigslist until 5 p.m. EDT today to comply with the request.
In his letter, McMaster also charges Craigslist with not living up to commitments the site agreed to in November with the National Center for Exploited & Missing Children and 43 attorneys general.
The November joint agreement was meant to improve Craigslist’s measures for preventing its online communities and classified ads from being misused for illegal activities. As a result of that agreement, Craigslist now requires advertisers to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card to post in the “erotic services” section. All revenues from erotic services ads are donated to charity, and Craigslist says it will, under subpoena, supply any information it has about “erotic services” advertisers to authorities.
In Response to McMaster’s concerns, craigslist in a blog post said it sees “no legal basis whatsoever for filing a lawsuit against craigslist,” but looks “forward to speaking directly with Attorney General McMaster about his concerns, and finding ways to address them without compromising the utility of Craigslist for South Carolinians, or anyone’s Constitutional rights.”
Craigslist has been under recent scrutiny by authorities nationwide over its “erotic services” section. Yesterday, Craigslist representatives met in New York with attorneys general from Missouri, Connecticut, and Illinois, all of whom want Craigslist to shut down its “erotic services” section in their states. In March, Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois also asked Craigslist to shut down its “erotic services” section, accusing Craigslist of being “the single largest source of prostitution in the nation.”
Craigslist is facing other scrutiny from law enforcement. Last month, Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was arrested after allegedly using craigslist’s “erotic services” section to connect with two women he later kidnapped and assaulted. Markoff is also charged with murdering one of the two victims.
Craigslist created the “erotic services” section “at the request of Craigslist users, who were tired of seeing ads for escort services, sensual massage, adult Web cams, phone sex, erotic dancing, adult Websites, nude housecleaning, etc. mixed into the regular personals and services categories,” according to the management.
Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul).