Commentary

Top Cops Still Lean On Craiglist

One would think that law enforcement officials would have backed off Craigslist by now, given that a federal judge last week issued a restraining order against South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster.

But not even a court order in South Carolina is slowing down authorities in other states. For instance, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal continues to demand that Craigslist jump through hoops. Joined by attorneys general in six other states -- Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania -- Blumenthal sent Craigslist a letter Tuesday demanding more information about how it is monitoring the new "adult services" ads. Specifically, Blumenthal wants to know the criteria used to refuse a post, the number of rejected ads, the wording of the rejection notices and other details.

"We want to know in no uncertain terms exactly how craigslist is blocking illicit activity -- specifics that show its good faith and provide guidance to other sites," Blumenthal said in a statement. "The soliciting for sex may be more subtle or disguised, so identifying code words and signals is key."

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Yes, as Blumenthal indicates, the site carries some racy ads. As do some Web sites affiliated with print media -- a fact that Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster harps on in his blog. And if Blumenthal objects so strongly, he's free to investigate. But he has no authority to demand that Craigslist answer to him.

But Craigslist has already done more than the law requires simply by agreeing to monitor the site. People might disagree about whether Craigslist bears any moral responsibility for prostitution ads, but legally Craigslist is on solid ground. The federal Communications Decency Act says sites aren't responsible for user-generated content -- even when users post ads that violate state law. While various state officials have threatened Craigslist, not a one has even attempted to put forward a cogent argument for why Craigslist is obligated to take any action.

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