Mass Law Blog

Aiding and Abetting Prostitution? Wa?! I’m an Internet Executive – I Sure Hope My Mom Doesn’t Read That!

by | May 21, 2009

“We opened an investigation at 5:01 on Friday, as promised. . . . We are preparing for a prosecution. We are investigating. We are moving forward. . . . . The #1 defendant is Mr. Jim Buckmaster, who is the man in charge of Craigslist.. . . . Craigslist is a big promoter and facilitator of prostitution.”

South Carolina Attorney General, on Sunday, according to the Craigslist Blog.

Hmmm, this is the kind of thing that is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, assuming that the South Carolina AG is referring to third party postings.  Somehow I doubt that Mr. Buckmaster has become a South Carolina pimp.

Apparently, law enforcement authorities in SC have been particularly aggressive in their comments about Craigslist. Why did Craigslist file this suit? The most obvious reason, from a semi-legal perspective, is to get into federal court in that state, rather than be subject to the whims of a state court judge that may not “get” the CDA. After all, SC is south of Mason Dixon, and these guys in California may have seen My Cousin Vinnie one time too many.  And, they be a little unclear on the geography of the American Southeast. Not to mention Easy Rider.

The other reason may just be to fight publicity with publicity, rather than just sit around and take it.

Whether a case like this is procedurally proper, I’m not sure, but I tend to doubt that you can preempt a threatened criminal prosecution that would be brought under state law with a civil action for declaratory relief in federal court.