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SC AG threatens Craigslist with prosecution

By MEG KINNARD
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 5, 2009 1:50 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's top prosecutor on Tuesday called on the chief executive of popular online site Craigslist to take down ads related to prostitution and pornography or face prosecution himself.

"Many of the classified and communication services on the Craigslist site provide the public with a valuable service," Attorney General Henry McMaster wrote in a letter to company CEO Jim Buckmaster. "However, it appears that the management of Craigslist has knowingly allowed the site to be used for illegal and unlawful activity after warnings from law enforcement officials and after an agreement with 40 state attorneys general."

McMaster was referencing an agreement he and attorneys general from dozens of other states entered into with Craigslist last year to improve the site's safeguards. In that document, Craigslist agreed to several safeguards, like allowing users to flag pornographic postings they believe violate the Web site's rules.

But McMaster said Tuesday he doesn't think Craigslist has done enough to keep those images, as well as ads for prostitution, off its Web site, giving the company until May 15 to take down sex-related postings from its South Carolina sites. If that deadline isn't met, McMaster said he may prosecute the San Francisco-based company.

McMaster, whose Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has arrested more than 150 people suspected of soliciting children for sex over the Internet, cited recent national events as his impetus for going after the company.

Philip Markoff, a second-year medical student at Boston University, has been accused of the April 14 killing of Julissa Brisman, a 25-year-old New York City resident who advertised on Craigslist. Markoff has also been charged in a robbery at a Boston hotel of another masseuse and with pulling a gun on a stripper in a Rhode Island hotel. Police in Rhode Island and Massachusetts say he also met those women through the site.

McMaster is not alone in his crusade. State attorneys general from Connecticut, Illinois and Missouri also planned Tuesday to meet with Craigslist officials in New York to work toward eliminating sex-related ads.

In a statement, Buckmaster said he was looking forward to the meeting and "anticipates making further progress toward the common goal of eliminating illegal activity from craigslist, while preserving its full utility and benefit for tens of millions of law-abiding Americans who value and depend on craigslist's free local community services in their everyday lives."
© 2009 The Associated Press

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