Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart says he may appeal a federal court’s ruling that Craigslist can continue to publish ads for hookers, and he insists his lawsuit against Craigslist wasn’t a publicity stunt.
In comments to The Wall Street Journal, Dart said Craigslist’s switch from “erotic” ads to “adult services” ads, which are supposedly reviewed manually before posting, wasn’t enough.
“There is no sincere effort being made here. They are trying to do the bare minimum,” he told the Journal. “We have yet to respond to one [suspicious] Craigslist ad where it was, in fact, a masseuse.”
U.S. District Judge John F. Grady last week dismissed Dart’s lawsuit, saying the Web site was protected against complaints that its advertisers are doing illegal things. Grady said the federal Communications Decency Act means Craigslist is merely hosting the ads for others.
“I can’t conceive that when this law was drafted and passed that anybody wanted to use it to allow absolutely anything to be placed on the Internet,” he said. “The site has been hijacked for criminal purposes. … If we were talking about a Web site that had a section of it where people went to do murder for hires or sell kilos of cocaine, nobody would say that it was just the responsibility of the bad people using the site.”
“Meritless cases brought by law enforcement officers, amounting to little more than publicity stunts with little to no chance of success, do little to address the officers’ underlying concerns,” the organization wrote in its blog. “Service providers are not liable because Congress correctly understood that the soap box should not be held responsible for the speech of others. Just as phone companies are not liable for harassing phone calls, or e-mail software providers for deceptive messages, online message boards like Craigslist are in most instances not liable for their users’ posts. It is not enough, as both Dart and South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster continue to demonstrate, to identity a problem and then stumble into court without a valid argument, pointing at the most prominent (although not legally culpable) target in sight. Hopefully, the District Court’s decision will cause Dart, McMaster, and the dozens of other attorneys general who saw the Craigslist pile-on as a cheap and easy way to score political points to think carefully before trying again in the future.”