So. Carolina eyes 'criminal investigation' of Craigslist

The attorney general's office says Craigslist continues to display prostitution ads and graphic porn, so it must launch an investigation and "potential prosecution."

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The attorney general of South Carolina is ready to launch a criminal investigation of Craigslist in connection with erotic ads appearing on the classified ads Web site.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster South Carolina Attorney General's office

Attorney General Henry McMaster had given Craigslist until Friday afternoon to remove erotically charged material from its South Carolina listings. The AG's Web site now has this statement posted:

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.

Craigslist responded Saturday with a blog post voicing exasperation with the attorney general's statement, comparing the "adult services" listings on Craigslist with the adult section of a Greenville, S.C., Web site and others like it elsewhere in the state, along with telephone yellow page listings and print publications.

Seriously? The CL "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, recently closed, has 8 ads total, images and text all 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.

Craigslist views itself as unfairly targeted by the attorney general's office.

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?

The South Carolina Attorney General's office was not immediately available for comment.

On Wednesday, Craigslist bowed to pressure from authorities in a number of states and said that it would remove its "erotic services" section, replacing it with a more closely monitored "adult services" section for legal enterprises.

CEO Jim Buckmaster said at the time that Craigslist would be on the lookout for sex workers trying to outmaneuver the new restrictions. "We have blocking and filtering technologies in place site wide. And of course our flagging system remains fully in effect across all the categories, but we will be monitoring that situation," Buckmaster told CNET News.

On top of ongoing allegations that Craigslist--which runs a wide variety of classified ads, including job and apartment listings--had become an outsized Internet bordello, the company's image recently was tarnished by news stories about a so-called "Craigslist killer" in connection with a murder investigation in Boston.