October 23, 2009

Federal Judge Throws Out Craigslist Lawsuit

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to remove all classified ads for prostitution from the Craigslist Web site.

In a 31-page opinion issued Tuesday, Judge John Grady said that not every posting on Craigslist's "Adult Services" section was advertising prostitution, and that other services could legitimately appear there.

"A woman advertising erotic dancing for male clients is offering an adult service, yet this is not prostitution," he said.

Such ads "might even be entitled to some limited protection under the First Amendment."

Furthermore, Craigslist is not to blame for those who post ads in violation of the company's guidelines prohibiting prostitution ads, he said.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart filed the lawsuit against San Francisco-based Craigslist in July, claiming a change in the category name from "Erotic Services" to "Adult Services" had not stopped prostitutes from using the site.

"Sheriff Dart may continue to use Craigslist's Web site to identify and pursue individuals who post allegedly unlawful content," Grady said.

"But he cannot sue Craigslist for their conduct."

Dart told the Associated Press that the sheriff's department had made hundreds of arrests related to prostitution solicited through Craigslist during the last two years.

His investigators typically scan the site for names and phone numbers, and then arrange meetings with prostitutes at hotels. Arrests are made once an offer of sex for money takes place, he said.

"It isn't that I just woke up one morning and said, 'Let's sue Craigslist.' This came after two years and hundreds of arrests off of the Web site, and many of the arrests involve juveniles and human trafficking," said Dart, adding that he was still deciding whether to make an appeal on the ruling.

Craigslist embraced the ruling. 

"We welcome Judge Grady's decision on this matter," said Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster through a spokeswoman.

Dart admits that a number of suggestive pictures of scantily clad women disappeared from the site after Craigslist discontinued its "Erotic Services" category.  However, it is clear that prostitution is still being advertised, he said.


On the Net: