Ill. AG: Craigslist broke agreement

May 6, 2009 4:03:47 AM PDT
The popular Web site Craigslist is facing an ultimatum.South Carolina's attorney general told the company to remove what he describes as ads for prostitution or face a possible criminal investigation.

Illinois' attorney general isn't going that far but says Craigslist broke an agreement to eliminate illegal activity.

Craigslist struck a deal with 40 state attorneys general to police its erotic postings more thoroughly. Now several of those officials say the managers of the Web site have failed to live up to their end of the bargain.

Forty million people use Craigslist every month searching for everything from cars to furniture. But it's come under increasing pressure from government officials who say it's also used by people placing ads for prostitution.

Now the South Carolina attorney general has given the web site managers 10 days to remove postings that he says are pornographic or encourage prostitution. If they don't he threatens a criminal action.

"It is nothing but filth, it is an advertisement for prostitution. It is ugly, it is harmful and there is no reason on earth why that is being allowed to be sent into South Carolina," said Henry McMaster, South Carolina attorney general.

Under the November deal with the 40 attorneys general, Craigslist agreed to charge $5 to $10 dollars for erotic services postings and to require people who submit those postings to submit a phone number.

Lisa Madigan is one of the attorneys general who says the site hasn't lived up to the deal.

In a letter to the CEO of Craigslist Madigan says: "The evidence is overwhelming that Craigslist has otherwise breached the agreement by failing to develop and effective screening process....It is clear that the erotic services section continues to facilitate the exploitation of women in Illinois and in states across the nation."

Critics have focused on several high profile crimes allegedly involving the site. They include the so-called Craigslist killer, a man police say targeted women who posted on the site and who allegedly killed one of them.

But there are attorneys who don't think a successful case can be brought against Craigslist. Under federal law sites are usually not liable for postings submitted by users.

Madigan has requested information on the number of erotic postings in Illinois removed by Craigslist this year. She says she wants that information by Friday.

In a recent interview, Craig Newmark, the founder of the Web site, denied that it facilitates prostitution and said he had no plans to change the erotic services section.


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