Archive for the ‘Harrassment’ Category

CL Sues SC AG For Dec Relief

May 20, 2009

 

craigslist has filed suit against SC AG Henry McMaster in federal court in South Carolina, seeking declaratory relief and a restraining order with respect to criminal charges he has repeatedly threatened against craigslist and its executives.

Two weeks ago Mr McMaster presented craigslist with an ultimatum, “to remove the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina and its municipal regions which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material” within ten (10) days.”

“If those South Carolina portions of the site are not removed,” McMaster said, “the management of craigslist may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.”

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.

Usage of craigslist in South Carolina has exploded over the last two years, with some cities experiencing 2000% growth. South Carolinians clearly value craigslist services, and appreciate finding jobs, housing, automobiles, for sale items, friends, romance, community information, local services, event listings, and just about everything else they need in their everyday lives, all in one place, and all for free.

Mr McMaster has persisted with his threats despite the fact that craigslist:

In case there had been any ambiguity as to his intentions, Mr McMaster made the following remarks on Sunday:

“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.”

Mr McMaster’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.

May 16, 2009

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster today announced that ourrecent improvements, which go far beyond measures he himself personally endorsed with his own signature six months ago, not only aren’t good enough, but actually require a criminal investigation:

“As of 5:00 p.m. this afternoon, the craigslist South Carolina site continues to display advertisements for prostitution and graphic pornographic material. This content was not removed as we requested. We have no alternative but to move forward with criminal investigation and potential prosecution.”

He evidently feels justified in singling out craigslist for investigation, and publicly condemning me personally as being worthy of criminal prosecution.

Seriously? The craigslist adult services section for Greenville, SC has a total of 1 ad for the last 3 days, featuring a photograph of a fully clothed person. The “erotic services” section for Greenville, which we recently closed, has 8 ads total which will expire in two days, and even for these ads the images and text are quite tame.

Meanwhile, the “adult entertainment” section of greenville.backpage.com(careful with link, NSFW), owned by Village Voice Media, has over 60 ads for the last 3 days, and about 250 in total. In sharp contrast with craigslist, many of these ads are quite explicit, quoting prices for specific sex acts, featuring close-ups of bare genitalia, etc.

Of course, no one in mainstream legal circles thinks either company should be subject to civil suit, let alone a criminal investigation. But if for whatever reason you were so motivated, would you target a venue with 9 PG-13 rated ads, or one with 250 XXX rated ones?

And FWIW, telephone yellow pages and other local print media have both companies beat hands down as adult service ad venues for South Carolina.

Any interest in targeting them for criminal prosecution? Didn’t think so.

Update – 1st comment on this entry lists 19 adult ads for 1 day from the Charleston Post and Courier.

Update 2 – 5 pages of escort listings on live.com (owned and operated by Microsoft), click on the “images” tab at the top of the listing page if you want to see photographs (careful NSFW), and note the sponsored “hotel” ads being sold against these listings

Update 3 – 26 escort ads for Myrtle Beach on yellowpages.com (owned and operated by AT&T). Anyone care to count the escort ads in the print yellow pages for major cities in South Carolina?

“Now Comes Thomas Dart…”

March 6, 2009

We will respond to Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart’s complaint (we have not yet been served, and learned of it only through press releases and media) sometime soon.  Our preliminary view is that the complaint is not well founded in law, and that it should be dismissed.

However, we still very much appreciate and commend the good work of Sheriff Dart’s department, and will continue to provide any and all assistance whenever we are called upon to help in their efforts to protect and serve the people of Cook County.

craigslist has a long history of cooperation with law enforcement. As example, here is a recent joint statement by craigslist, 40 state Attorneys General — including the Attorney General of Illinois Lisa Madigan — as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which was announced in November 2008:

blog.craigslist.org/2008/11/joint-statement-with-attorneys-general-ncmec

craigslist is an extremely unwise choice for those intent on committing crimes, since an electronic trail is inevitably created that law enforcement officers can follow.  We pride ourselves on the prompt and valuable assistance we provide to police departments and federal authorities nationwide.

Here are some of the measures we currently take to prevent illegal activity on craigslist:

1. We ban all illegal activity in our Terms of Use
2. We place prominent notices on our posting forms warning against illegal activity
3. We perform telephone verification on user accounts as a requirement for posting in “erotic services”
4. We block ads containing language that in our experience has a high likelihood of violating our Terms of Use
5. We remove inappropriate ads that come to our attention
6. We block persons violating our Terms of Use from posting
7. We provide a community moderation system whereby our users flag inappropriate ads for removal
8. We place prominent notices asking users to flag inappropriate ads
9. In U.S. cities we require credit card authorization to post in “erotic services”, and charge a fee for each ad, with 100% of net revenues donated to charity.
10.  We label adult content using the PICS rating system, which supports most content control software programs
11. We prohibit the use of adult-only categories by persons under the age of 18
12. We participate in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Cybertipline program
13. We collaborate on user awareness campaigns regarding human
trafficking and child exploitation
14. We place notices encouraging users to report any suspected abuse of minors
15. We maintain a resource page to assist users in reporting suspected abuse of minors
16. We maintain information pages regarding personal safety on craigslist
17. We adapt our web site to aid the work of agencies working on human trafficking and exploitation issues
18. We respond promptly to inquiries and requests for assistance from law enforcement officers

More background information on the “erotic services” category is available here:

www.craigslist.org/about/erotic_services_FAQ

 

MYSTIFIED BY COOK COUNTY SHERIFF

March 6, 2009

Cites Record of Cooperation with Illinois Law Enforcement

San Francisco, CA – March 6, 2009
 – “Frankly, Sheriff Dart’s actions mystify me,” said craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, referencing the private civil suit filed against the online service yesterday by the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff.

Buckmaster explained that “in mid and late 2007 we had very positive communications with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, in which we explained how “erotic services” came to be, the purposes it is intended to serve, and the statutes that support our right to operate as we do.

“Since then, we have not only initiated multiple new measures to further reduce misuse of our website by anyone intending criminal activity, we also reached an agreement with 40 state attorneys-general, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, about an enforcement plan designed to protect the public from those who would misuse our site.”

And yet, inexplicably, Sheriff Dart apparently bypassed the Illinois Attorney General’s office, and filed this complaint through a private law firm.

“As our counsel explained to Sheriff Dart’s Department in 2007, craigslist cannot be held liable as a matter of clear federal law for content submitted to the site by our users.” Buckmaster pledged to defend vigorously the lawsuit brought by the Sheriff.

Buckmaster further pledged craigslist’s continuing commitment to helping law enforcement officers nationwide locate and rescue victims and put criminals in jail. “We assist police forces all over the country, including members of Sheriff Dart’s department,” says Buckmaster.  “The vast majority seem to understand that craigslist is part of the solution when it comes to combating terrible crimes like human trafficking and child exploitation.”

“They know and appreciate that we are working very hard to eliminate misuse of our site and provide assistance with their investigations, and for that understanding we are very grateful.”

“Openness, Honesty, and Integrity”

May 14, 2008

Navigational searches on Yahoo for “www.craigslist.org” or “craigslist.org” have been bringing up eBay textads featuring hyperlinked craigslist URLs, designed to confuse and misdirect users seeking craigslist onto eBay sites. Here is a link to a screen shot of one such search taken this morning, and an image of the text ad itself:

We’ve tried to give eBay the benefit of doubt, but it’s hard to reconcile deceptive, trademark-infringing ads calculated to harm craigslist and its users with statements like this one from eBay yesterday:

“eBay has, and will continue to be, a minority shareholder who believes in Craigslist, shares its values and acts with openness, honesty and integrity in its dealings with Craigslist’s board and the online community.

In fact, these ads suggest that they do not share our values at all, and that they are being anything but open and honest with the online community

UPDATE – Looks like these ads have been withdrawn! Ceasing unlawful behavior out of fear of legal consequences falls short of “openness, honesty, and integrity”, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Criticism Welcome, Defamation Not So Much

April 2, 2008

The Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, recently denounced craigslist to members of the media, for what he alleged were shortcomings in the “erotic services” section of craigslist for areas of Connecticut.

We were disappointed that he chose to ignore our recent progress in dramatically improving compliance with our terms of use, shocked at the bizarre assertion that we are “stonewalling”, and frankly stunned to hear craigslist recklessly slandered as “profiting from prostitution“.

We welcome feedback from any and all interested parties as to how we can improve, but craigslist will not be used as a punching bag for false and defamatory statements.

Unlike the telephone yellow pages, many newspapers, and countless websites, which for many years have profited from “erotic service” ads, craigslist derives no revenue (let alone profit) from “erotic services”, and in fact we incur significant costs in enforcing our terms of use regarding these ads.

Connecticut craigslist users are no doubt curious as to why their AG is spending time attacking freedom of speech and law-abiding companies that provide much-needed free services to the people of Connecticut, when there is so much actual crime left unaddressed. We don’t have the answer, but would be interested to know what it is.

Monster getting desperate?

March 25, 2008

On several occasions over the last month, a large, tacky Monster.com truck has parked in front of our SF office, and proceeded to blast loud music, to the point where our front offices were rendered unfit for working. On the latest occasion, a few of our techies asked the driver to turn down the music, which he was nice enough to do.

He actually turned out to be a sterling fellow, who clearly felt bad about what he’d been asked to do. He was good enough to allow us to photocopy his marching orders (that’s him holding the fax in photo), which are excerpted below:

“For San Francisco the concept is that we want to make sure this address is on the loop drivers take and if they can be close by during the morning commute, lunch time (noon thru 2) and 5pm-6pm, that would be ideal. For the rest of the time, please drive through high-pedestrian traffic city locations. If you can get a picture of the truck parked in front of the Craigslist address, that would be great.”

Is it possible that Monster is “green” with envy, now that our job boards alone receive more employment-related traffic than all of monster.com?


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