The website that features a centralized network of online communities featuring free online classified advertisements known as Craigslist has come under fire from South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. McMaster has sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster stating that the website has until Friday May 15 to remove sex-related ads from its South Carolina web sites. McMaster says a number of prostitutes in the state are using the sites to solicit customers.
McMaster says he is among 40 state attorney generals who Buckmaster entered into an agreement with in November of 2008 to install safeguards to his website to combat unlawful activity. McMaster says as of yet no action has been taken, so he is warning Buckmaster and any other members of his company involved that if the website is not cleaned up, they will be subject to investigation and prosecution.”They would be charged with prostitution, but they could be charged with aiding and abetting prostitution, or conspiracy to solicit prostitution as well as dissemination of obscenity because some of the personal sites are highly offensive and as obscene as they can possibly be.”
McMaster says so far he is the only state attorney general taking this action, but he is suggesting to other state attorney generals to follow his lead.
Created in San Francisco in 1995, Craigslist’s sole source of revenue is paid job ads in select major U.S. cities and paid broker apartment listings in New York City. A $5 charge per erotic services listing was added in November of last year. McMaster says anyone can easily log on the website and go to the services category and click on the erotic section with links to a number of South Carolina locations.
“Click on there and there is all the headlines for the different prostitutes. Then click over to the individuals sections and they’ll have sometimes a picture and a description of various types of things that they do. They will very often have a price list and a phone number and all that and that’s how you locate them.”
The website’s intention is to donate erotic service revenues to charity. Craigslist suggests that the fees are intended largely to deter illicit activities, by requiring posters to create information available for subpoena.
McMaster says the message in his letter to Buckmaster and any of his employees knowingly involved in distributing erotic messages in their South Carolina websites is pretty straightforward. “They are going to suffer penalties if it develops in an investigation that is in fact is what’s going on and we believe that is what we’ll find. We have sheriffs that are going on Craigslist right now and locating those ads which is very easy to do and prosecuting those prostitutes.”
Craigslist serves over 20 billion page views per month, placing it 28th overall among web sites worldwide.