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Craigslist’s CEO “Mystified” By Sheriff’s ‘Erotic Services’ Lawsuit

Craigslist is stunned by a civil lawsuit filed against the site’s “erotics services” section, according to CEO Jim Buckmaster [pictured].

“Frankly, Sheriff Dart’s actions mystify me,” Buckmaster said in a statement.

Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Illinois filed suit against the online classifieds Web site Thursday, accusing its owners of knowingly promoting and facilitating prostitution.

“Craigslist is the single largest source of prostitution in the nation,” Dart said in a statement. “Missing children, runaways, abused women and women trafficked in from foreign countries are routinely forced to have sex with strangers because they’re being pimped on Craigslist.”

Buckmaster said the company spoke with Sheriff Dart in mid- and late-2007 about its “erotic services” section.

“Since then, we have not only initiated multiple new measures to further reduce misuse of our Web site 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,” Buckmaster said.

In November, Craigslist filed suit against 14 companies and individuals who were accused of using the classifieds Web site to facilitate human trafficking, child exploitation, and prostitution. The site also announced that it would require people posting ads via “erotic services” to provide credit card verification and pay a fee.

Dart said that fee was “dirty money” and “a publicity stunt that generated goodwill and possibly tax breaks for Craigslist, but which has had little practical effect.” Pimps get around the requirements by using stolen cards and posting in other sections, he said.

Dart said he wrote to Craigslist numerous times asking that it shut down the “erotic services” section, and alerting them to the numerous arrests the department has made by trolling Craigslist for inappropriate content, but nothing was done.

Arrests have ranged from suburban soccer moms to heroin addicts, a former reality TV star and several juveniles, some as young as 14 years old, Dart said.

“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.

“We assist police forces all over the country, including members of Sheriff Dart’s department,” he continued. “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 is not convinced. “Craigslist unabashedly facilitates prostitution, then ultimately makes a profit from it,” he said.

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