Craigslist Sues Attorney General Of South Carolina

Craigslist has announced that they are suing South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster “seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order with respect to criminal charges he has repeatedly threatened against craigslist and its executives.” It’s on, people.

Craigslist says that McMaster’s threats to launch criminal investigations if the company refused to remove portions of the website that could be used to solicit prostitution and disseminate pornographic material are unconstitutional.

Craigslist says:

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 (sec 230 CDA).

Interestingly, if you read Mr McMaster’s ultimatum carefully, you’ll note that the only way to definitively comply with it is to take down the craigslist sites for South Carolina in their entirety. The open architecture of craigslist, quintessential to the value it provides for users, simply does not allow for the absolute prevention of solicitation or pornography, with respect to any of its categories and functions.

CL Sues SC AG For Declaratory Relief [Craigslist Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dave_coder says:

    Go Craigslist!

  2. Chongo says:

    It’s kind of like the Robocaller stories… The big boys only get involved when it affect them.

    Perhaps Henry McMaster didn’t receive the “Happy Ending” that was promised him in one of the ads?

  3. Darrone says:

    Silly craigslist, your fancy “laws” don’t apply in South Carolina. Sheriff Lott showed us that you can do whatever you want when there are cameras around.

    • Hil-fish says:

      @Darrone: These guys and Jim DeMint are precisely the reasons I try to avoid admitting I’m from SC.

      • JamesEnsor says:


        Yeah, McMaster’s just trying to drum up brownie points for his presumed run for Governor, that’s all. Or he just got jealous of Leon Lott’s face time with the national media.

        As for disavowed senators, Lindsey Graham’s on my list.

  4. Phillip Guyton Jr. says:

    I’m from SC and he does not represent all of us!

  5. supertechman-protests disemvoweling by disemvoweling himself says:

    I sincerely hope the courts grant CL the restraining order, and firmly smackdown this overzealous AG. Guys like him enabled GWB’s presidency, and will do nothing but destroy consumers’ rights of choice.

    • HiPwr says:

      @supertechman: I take it that “guys like him enabled GWB’s presidency” to mean that McMaster is an American citizen who votes in the presidential election.

      • katyggls says:

        @HiPwr: What he means is that “guys like him” have decided that they are qualified to make moral decisions for the entire country. They voted in a president who thought the same. Now this AG has decided that because the adult listings on Craigslist offend his personal morals, he has the right to shut it down for everyone.

        • HiPwr says:

          @katyggls: He’s making legal decisions that affect South Carolina. That’s his job. This may be news to you, but prostitution is illegal in SC regardless of whether you or he thinks it’s moral, or not.

          • Citizen Kang says:


            I don’t see him overly upset with Google. You can use Google to find paid sex and, last I checked, it has more exposure and brand awareness than Craigslist. Sounds like he’s jumping on the bandwagon of the moment which means he’s more concerned about politically showboating than really addressing the legal needs of the state of South Carolina.

            • HiPwr says:

              @Citizen Kang: CraigsList has been in the news with that asshole hooking up with prostitutes and robbing/killing them. He has to start somewhere, and he might as well go with the most public one. Not to mention that the man is an elected official and like all politicians/quasi-politicians, he loves publicity so go after the one most prominent in the public eye.

            • HiPwr says:

              @Citizen Kang: Tacking onto my point and agreeing with you to some extent, yes, I believe political showboating is a factor here.

              Welcome to America.

          • Go Like Hell Machine says:

            @HiPwr: Prostitution is illegal, yes, but the AG’s responsibilities as endowed by the state doesn’t actually afford him this particular authority.

            • henwy says:

              @Go Like Hell Machine:

              It doesn’t allow him to impose criminal sanctions through seating a grand jury? That would be news to most people.

            • HiPwr says:

              @Go Like Hell Machine: I don’t have a law degree and I am certainly not an expert on the authority of a state’s Attorney General, but if a crime is being committed in SC, it seems reasonable that the state AG can persue it. What specifically is he doing that is beyond his authority?

              @IphtashuFitz: I’ll concede that that may be a legitimate gripe against the AG. However, that is more of a political argument than a legal one.

              • Shivved says:

                @katyggls: You realize that our entire set of laws is predicated on a shared set of moral values, right? Obviously there are disagreements on certain moral issues, which is why we have elections. Moral values also change, which is why laws can be changed.

                Your beef seems to be that your moral code does not match the moral code of certain people making the law. That’s fine. Vote for someone who more closely agrees with you. But don’t pretend that their decisions are based any less on morals than Bush or anyone else.

                • Trai_Dep says:

                  @Shivved: Here’s the thing, though. Some yahoo scrambling for press attention from a podunk municipality is trying to stop Craigslist from listing everywhere.
                  It’d be like if some 30-person town’s blue-haired PTA mom in Mississippi was trying to outlaw the Harry Potter series from being on anyone’s bookshelf.

                  • Trai_Dep says:

                    @Trai_Dep: (“Podunk” as a slur against the man’s thinking, not against ALL the people living there, obviously. It’s great to see how many SC citizens are here voicing opposition :))

                • RandomZero says:

                  @Shivved: Believe it or not, there’s been a major school of legal theory for at LEAST twenty years now that believes law should and generally does stem from logic, not morals.

                  For almost the same amount of time, there have been excellent works available on legal theory that point out that both “natural moral law” and “natural logical law” are a pile of crap, as there are quite a few laws on the books that are completely illogical, or immoral in the eyes of the community they are intended to govern.

                  Try again.

                  • banmojo says:

                    @RandomZero: that’s interesting, but it’s also bullshit imo. if laws were based solely on ‘logic’, then we’d HAVE laws allowing euthanasia for terminally ill ‘in severe pain’ patients, alcohol and tobacco would be illegal and MJ would BE LEGAL, all sorts of changes would have to be made with our legal system, not to mention our state and federal gov. systems.

                    The TRUTH of the matter is that laws are MADE BY HUMANS and therefore may be based on just about anything. Whether they SHOULD be based on logic vs morality is another issue – obviously subjective morality is a dangerous place to go to make laws, as it can change between individuals, between states, between cultures, countries, eras.

                    I think we could have a long interesting discussion about this but I’m needed at work.


                  • chuloallen says:

                    @RandomZero: Believe it or not, but Law has been around for more than 20 years. And in about that same amount of time there has been excellent work on flying pirates and pixi dust.
                    What is your definition of morals? Because the very nature of morals is to encourage certain behaviors and punish others, which kinda sounds like what law does. What is the logic in driving on the right side of the road? To keep order and save lives? then what is the logic in keeping order and saving lives? keep going down the line and you will eventually get to a value base decision.

          • IphtashuFitz says:

            @HiPwr: He should be cleaning up his own state first if he really wants to set a good example. When this first came out I spent all of about 5 minutes locating ads for prostitutes on the websites of newspapers located inside SC. He’s being one hell of a hypocrite if he’s complaining about Craigslist while ignoring what’s been going on in his own state since long before Craigslist ever even existed.

      • Radi0logy says:

        @HiPwr: No no! Obviously its a continued plot by GWB to destroy America!

  6. bornonbord says:

    Hell yeah! Let’s kick some ass, boys!

  7. midtower says:

    So. Carolina AG appears to back down in Craigslist case

  8. AT203 says:


    Here is the docket entry. If someone has a PACER account, they may pay to retrieve the text of the action.

  9. comedian says:

    This just in, SCAG caught in bed with local newspapers.

  10. boxjockey68 says:

    Yea, I dunno WHAT on earth AG was thinking. Guess he didn’t want my vote anyhow…

    • henwy says:


      I don’t think any AG has ever depended on the votes of those who support crime so you’re probably safe there.

      • Shaggy says:

        @henwy: How is boxjockey68 “supporting crime”?

      • Wombatish says:

        @henwy: There’s a major difference between supporting crime and supporting rights for the accused/disliking overzealous and unconstitutional prosecution.

        But you probably just don’t care, much like the AG.

  11. firestorm888 says:

    The best thing about this here is that it will set a *precedent* for all of the other states’ AG’s to observe and follow – remember, this is not about free speech – it’s about one grandstanding AG being a douchebag on the national stage.

    Remember when the SC Gov. said that he’d refuse TARP $$$? My sister, who’s pretty high up in SC education system’s hierarchy told me that was d-baggery on the Gov’s part – to make himself look good for all of the other Country Club Republicans out there – while SC bleeds jobs like a patient badly in need of triage.

    Meg, thanks for covering – I’ll be winning debates with my SC-based window-licking brother-in-law – with your help!!

    • tgrwillki says:

      Just to clarify, it was Stimulus money, and not TARP Money.

      and Sanford is a Douchebag of epic proportions.

    • SacraBos says:

      @firestorm888: That doesn’t mean the “stimulus money” is any good. We have a nearby school district that has $3M in stimulus, but they can’t really use it. There are so many strings attached to it as to how if can be spent (and the few programs effected are already fully funded), that you almost can’t use the money without breaking the law or adding jobs (if only for a year) they don’t need. It’s a crock.

      • firestorm888 says:

        @SacraBos: By “strings attached” – I’m trusting you mean ‘Provisions through which these monies will be spent accountably’ – Right?

        Really? Honestly, claiming that an sys administers that cannot figure out how to abide by a bunch of provisions – y’know – TO GET $$$ – is really like saying ‘without bonuses, we may not be able to retain quality fund managers’. Riiiight. Keep trying.

  12. Palmetto274 says:

    Know if Craigslist can manage to rid the state of Gov. Sanford… any ideas?

    • Palmetto274 says:

      @Palmetto274: Now not know, trying to do too many things at once!! Oops.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Palmetto274: I don’t know if they could, but they could certainly put up a want ad for someone to help them do this. And sell that Ikea desk, too!

    • Dansc29625 says:

      @Palmetto274: I remember when he was running for Gov. His opponent asked him: “Have you ever been enrolled in a public school?” Sanford replied, “Shure did, the University of Virginia,” His opponent says “Well thats the difference between you and me.”

      And this D-bag got re-elected.

  13. Skaperen says:

    I was looking at taking advantage of the lower prices caused by economic cancellations, and use some of the vacancies now available. But now, I’ve changed my mind and will not be going this summer to Myrtle Beach.

    • econobiker says:

      @Skaperen: Anyone know if the hookers in SC are lower priced without craigslist to use?

    • OrlandoDude says:

      @Skaperen: What an idiotic statement. Spend where you want, but the hardworking business owners and workers in the tourist area of Myrtle Beach have nothing to do with this nonsense.

  14. unojack says:

    go back to Ohio? ([]) GLADLY! where i can freely shop craigslist for a happy ending if i dam well please. good day sir.

  15. edrebber says:

    By the same logic, shouldn’t every street be shutdown to prevent the same activity?

    • theblackdog says:

      @edrebber: You might as well shut down telephones as well since people can make phone calls to arrange these activities.

      • LegoMan322 says:

        @theblackdog: don’t forget about the internet and texting and newspapers and telepathy.

        We should just be like “little house on the prairie”.

        • theblackdog says:

          @LegoMan322: No good, people can still use their wagons to find hookers, they just look for the ones painted red ;-)

          • PriceIsWrong says:

            Forget the wagons, they’ll just have Bordell-oh wait. Yeah I guess that would be illegal too.

            Why would they want to get rid of these sections anyway.

            Hello, police? I have this wonderful wonderful tool for you to use to catch prostitutes/johns, it’s called Erotic Services.
            At least they can see who is offering a good time, and track them down accordingly.

            You get rid of it, and boom, they’ll be back out walking the street.

  16. Matt says:

    His name is McMaster? Maybe if he loses his job he can go work for McDonalds as their hiphop spokesperson.

  17. H3ion says:

    Now if he was really serious about limiting prostitution, he’d go after the johns. Put their photos on the front page, show them on the 6 o’ clock news, etc. But that would probably mean a good portion of the South Carolina legislature would be doing perp walks. Bet that would cut the amount of prostitution a lot more than going after Craigslist or the hookers themselves.

    • BrienBear Thinks Stupidity Defies Logic says:


      I dont understand that thinking. Why go after the person buying the product when usually you go after the person selling normally.

      • H3ion says:

        @BrienBear: Mostly because it works. Here both parties are technically guilty of some criminal activity but if you only arrest the prostitute, she’ll pay her fine, or serve her 30 days, and be right back out earning a living. If you arrest or even just publicly disclose the customers, you dry up the “buyers” pretty quickly. It’s one thing for a prostitute to have her picture on Smoking Gun. It’s quite another thing for Elliot Spitzer to have his face on NBC News.

        • henwy says:


          Since the only way to get access to the Johns through craigslist is to seize and read all the emails sent to the prostitutes, you’re suggesting that the government should be able to scan the mail?

          • H3ion says:

            @henwy: There is no expectation of privacy in e-mail sent from a company account. We are theoretically allowed (although we never have) to read all e-mail, incoming or outgoing, on the company’s servers. Other than that, e-mail should have the same protections as letter mail. It can be opened with a warrant upon a good cause showing, but not otherwise. The government can find its johns and prostitutes the same way they do now.

            FWIW, some church group in DC started videotaping the cars stopping for prostitutes at some DC location. They were looking for license plates which were reported to be primarily from out of DC. I don’t know what happened with this but it did cause some ruckus when it happened. The johns were all upset that their “business” transactions were being monitored and the prostitutes felt that the presence of cameras (this was on a public street) had a chilling effect on their revenues. Might of even caused some of them to need a bailout.

            • henwy says:


              I seriously doubt most people are stupid enough to solicit prostitutes from their work email. Especially since it takes almost no effort to have a proxy account.

        • SacraBos says:

          @H3ion: The only problem is some of the people making those decisions (eg. Spitzer) have too much to lose to do it.

      • Gramin says:


        This logic views the prostitutes as victims. Criminalizing the purchase and arresting the buyer (as opposed to the prostitute) also prevents police corruption. A rather interesting study of prostitution was done in Chicago. One of the findings was that prostitutes are seldom arrested because they’ll offer sexual favors in exchange for no arrest. If the act of selling one’s body is no longer illegal, peace officers are unable to force prostitutes to perform such sexual favors as a means of avoiding arrest.

    • morlo says:

      @H3ion: You won’t “dry up” the buyers so easily… (And really, have lawmakers gotten so cheap that they don’t have mistresses anymore?)

  18. Allen Harkleroad says:

    I hope Craig Newmark and associates cleans that Ag’s plow. The South Carolin AG is resorting to a form of cyberbullying if you ask me (tonger in cheek), not to mention political grandstanding. I wonder if he even understands what the Streisand effect is?

  19. buttons says:

    Nice job, Henry. That’s going to look GREAT on your “McMaster for Guvern’r” billboard.

    Wanted: Competent state leadership.

    • Gramin says:


      I would invite you to join me in Chicago; unfortunately, we’re suffering from similar leadership problems in Illinois.

  20. Karita says:

    I know the AG from my state (Connecticut) was pretty involved in all of this, too. I’m typically a big supporter of what the AGs do, and often consider trying to move from my law practice into the CT AG’s office. But this has really bothered me. Probably more than any other political issue recently. Not that I ever got anything out of the erotic listings. Sure, I looked at the posts now and again (for the record, I’m a female) and was mostly amused by the unbelievable displays of idiocy and shamelessness. But I just don’t see the problem with prostitution, and I think it’s high time we move beyond our puritan roots into something more compatible with free will.

  21. themrdee says:

    I don’t have the best command of the English language but the way I read, and reread the article is that Craigslist wants the threats to stop. There is no mention of morals, prostitution, or sexual high jinks. In other words they are saying put up or shut up but let us go our way.

  22. PLATTWORX says:

    Craigslist’s is quickly becomming a “dirty word”. Who would want their family to visit or post ads for something to sell or look for something to buy on a site now known around the world as a major site for prostitution and home of the “Craigslist Killer”.

    Craigslist can’t approve every ad and can’t afford the staff to do so. I sense major problems for the site that are just going to get worse.

  23. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    “If selling is legal and fucking is legal, why isn’t selling fucking legal”

    – George Carlin

  24. Meathamper says:

    You goin’ down, AG.

  25. P_Smith says:

    Other governments have tried to hold companies liable for content not controlled by said companies. The French and German governments weren’t able to make Yahoo accountable for individuals selling Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo. Both cases were tossed.



    I wouldn’t consider the selling of sex anywhere near as offensive, as well as the fact that US laws on free speech are looser than French and German laws. The judge would have to be an idiot to let it get anywhere near a trial.

  26. AT203 says: has Craiglist’s complaint.