Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has publicly responded to a lawsuit that accused Craigslist of supporting prostitution through its Erotic Services sections. “Frankly, [Cook County] Sheriff [Thomas] Dart’s actions mystify me,” Buckmaster said. Dart sued Craigslist in a Chicago federal court last week. Dart called the wildly popular site “the single largest source of prostitution in the nation.”
On the company blog, Buckmaster recounted previous “positive” communications with the 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.
“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 said he’d defend Craigslist “vigorously” and that Craigslist would continue its commitment to helping law enforcement “locate and rescue victims and put criminals in jail … We assist police forces all over the country, including members of Sheriff Dart’s department. 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.”
Most of the comments to Buckmaster’s blog are positive, lauding the site for “trying to find the right balance between liberty and controls,” as one poster put it. “Craigslist is clearly being more proactive than, say, the companies publishing your local ‘yellow pages’ telephone books,” another commenter said, citing some YP publishers’ inclusion of “escort services.”
But not all agreed. “I used to think Craigslist was the best thing that ever happened,” one woman wrote. “I do not feel that way anymore. You people have just openly become cyber pimps,” she said, blaming Craigslist for providing the connection between prostitutes and her errant husband. “You are responsible for tearing a 17-year marriage and my family apart. … Clean up your act.”
That last sentiment has been echoed elsewhere, including the crime blog CrimeNe.ws. “Even if the law is on his side as Mr. Buckmaster claims, you would think he would have a moral responsibility to do away with the erotic services section.” As reasonable as that suggestion might be, it probably doesn’t help CrimeNe.ws’s argument to have included a picture of Buckmaster with the word, “PIMP” surprinted in tall white letters.