Craigslist chief 'mystified' by sheriff's sex ad lawsuit
Craigslist's chief executive has fired back at an Illinois sheriff who is suing the popular website for promoting prostitution with free classified ads for "erotic services."
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart filed a lawsuit a day earlier in US District Court accusing Craigslist of being the largest source of prostitution in the nation for allowing ads by people offering sex for cash.
"Frankly, Sheriff Dart's actions mystify me," Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in a statement.
Buckmaster maintains that Craigslist had "very positive communications" in 2007 with the Cook County Sheriff's Office, explaining the legality and intent of the classified-ad website's Erotic Services section.
Craigslist says it has since instituted new measures to prevent the website from being used as a tool in the illegal sex trade and implemented an anti-abuse plan endorsed by attorneys general in Illinois and 39 other states.
Dart's lawsuit was filed four months after San Francisco-based Craigslist settled a nationwide lawsuit by promising to enact new rules to crack down on prostitution.
"We assist police forces all over the country, including members of Sheriff Dart's department," Buckmaster said.
"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."
Dart used a private law firm to file his civil suit, Buckmaster noted.
US law protects Craigslist and other websites from being responsible for content posted by users, the website's lawyers argue.
Buckmaster pledged that Craigslist will "vigorously" defend against Dart's lawsuit.
Dart is asking a federal judge to order Craigslist to eliminate its Erotic Services section.
He is also seeking reimbursement for tax dollars spent paying the salaries of officers who investigate and arrest those responsible for trafficking prostitutes on the website.
"This section is a convenient clearing house for pimps, prostitutes and patrons that enables sellers to advertise and buyers to peruse discretely," Dart said in court filings.
While Craigslist does not profit from ads in the Erotic Services section, Dart claims the traffic it generates accounts for the bulk of the website's popularity and allowed it to generate 80 million dollars in revenue last year from paid posts for jobs and apartments.
In November, Craigslist said it would charge a small fee and require credit card verification for postings in the Erotic Services section and all revenue from the ads would be donated to charity.