"Until the court rules on the merits of craigslist's claims, defendants and their attorneys and staffs shall refrain from initiating or pursuing any prosecution against craigslist or its officers and employees in relation to content posted by third parties on craigslist's website," states the order, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge C. Weston Houck in Charleston.
The restraining order shouldn't be a surprise, given that the law was so clearly on Craigslist's side. The federal Communications Decency Act says that Web sites aren't responsible for posts created by users that violate state law.
Nonetheless, McMaster spent the last two weeks publicly threatening to prosecute CEO Jim Buckmaster and others for facilitating prostitution because of ads on the site.
Craigslist had already agreed to make changes to its site -- even though it wasn't legally required to do so. Last week, the site said it would close its "erotic services" section and replace it with a new, monitored "adult" category. As of today, some of the ads in the "adult" section still appeared to be for prostitution, but with more ambiguous language than in the past.
The site always said that the "erotic services" section was supposed to house ads for services like erotic massage and dancing. But law enforcement officials have complained for a while now that Craigslist carries blatant prostitution ads. The criticism gathered steam in recent weeks, largely because of the murder of masseuse Julissa Brisman. She was allegedly killed last month by a Boston University student who answered an ad she placed in Craigslist's former erotic services category.