South Carolina’s McMaster softens rhetoric, but still considers suing Craigslist


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The office of South Carolina Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster said this afternoon that it was still considering legal action against Craigslist over classified listings it sees as prostitution. McMaster is being sued by Craigslist, which is asking for a restraining order against any possible prosecution over the ads.

The renewal of the threat of prosecution, which McMaster has made several times, appeared to be toned down in comparison with earlier, more aggressive statements.


In response to a question about whether legal action against Craigslist was still on the table, a spokesman for McMaster responded, ‘Yes. This office and law enforcement officials in the state will now need to monitor the website to ensure that the illegal content that has been removed does not appear again.’

McMaster also posted a statement on his website (PDF) noting that Craigslist ‘is 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.’

Until today, McMaster had been threatening imminent criminal prosecution of Craigslist over alleged prostitution ads, even after the site publicly announced its plan -- now in place -- to shutter its ‘erotic services’ section in favor of a more strictly controlled ‘adult services’ section. But in his office’s statement to the Times, McMaster seemed to downgrade the nature of his threat to the kind of ‘wait and see’ approach that was adopted by several other attorneys general last week after Craigslist laid out its changes.

Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster announced the lawsuit against McMaster on the San Francisco company’s blog today, saying that the attorney general’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.’

-- David Sarno