Craigbust: Will Florida sheriff charge Craigslist?

Posted by on Sep 15, 2009 in Marketplace

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            Oh, here we go again. It’s just so ridiculous.

            Now the sheriff of Polk County, Fla. — between Tampa and Orlando — says he is considering criminal charges against Craigslist after a weekend sting in which his department arrested 26 people on prostitution-related charges. All of them were identified through ads on Craigslist and encouraged to come to a house in Polk County, where they were arrested.

            Few if any were from Polk County; most were from Orlando or Tampa, but the sheriff said others came from California and Wisconsin. Sheriff Grady Judd blamed the company, saying “they provide the infrastructure for prostitutes to operate. … Craigslist is one-stop shopping for all of your prostitution needs.”

            This guy has a masters degree in criminal justice — y’think he might have read up on the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects sites like Craigslist from prosecution? Nope. He wants to go after Buckmaster and Newmark.

             “I’m promising them they will be charged criminally by our office and we will seek prosecution if they continue to violate the laws of the state of Florida. They may have perpetuated enough criminal conduct that they are a criminal defendant in waiting,” Judd said at a news conference (as reported by The Tampa Tribune).

            Using cheap intimidation tactics for Craigslist isn’t enough for Judd, though. He also threatened men who use hookers. He said his department will contact former customers of the women arrested, based on information from their contact books and mobile phones.

            “For those of you who are married, it will certainly be a surprise for your wife,” he said.

            For its part, Craigslist told the Tribune that there are other media in the area running more explicit ads for hookers. “It would be surprising if the Sheriff has chosen to ignore the larger and much more explicit adult service advertising venues operating throughout his jurisdiction,” the company said in a statement.

            Couldn’t this sheriff find crime in his county without having to convince hookers to drive in from Tampa and Orlando? Nah, Polk County must be crime-free. Not!

            We could report endlessly on the history of sheriffs and state attorneys general going after Craigslist, but we’ll spare you the details. Here are some links, though:

             http://aimgroup.com/index.php/article/kijiji-survey-most-want-site-free-of-adult-ads/

            http://aimgroup.com/index.php/article/craigslist-response-to-motion-deferred/

            http://aimgroup.com/index.php/article/craigslist-and-us-attorneys-general-the-next-round/

            http://aimgroup.com/index.php/article/ebay-craigslist-trial-still-going-and-going/

Written by Peter M. Zollman

Peter M. Zollman brings more than 35 years of media experience to his role as founding principal of the AIM Group / Classified Intelligence Report. He has worked with a wide range of media companies, dot-coms, technology providers and start-ups to develop and expand successful interactive-media services. He is based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando.

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