State v. Craigslist: Showdowns and ho-downs

The battle between Craigslist and legal officials over adult ads is getting wackier by the minute. Pull up a seat and grab some popcorn

I don't know about you, but I'm finding the whole showdown between Craigslist and the state attorneys general over online "adult" ads endlessly entertaining. In case you've been paying attention to actual news and somehow missed it, here's the story so far.

First, Craigslist caved in to the outcry over the alleged "Craigslist killer" and offered to make nominal changes to its racier listings, swapping "adult" for "escort" in the title and promising to do a better job of keeping out the $2 whores.

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No matter -- South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster still threatened to bring criminal charges against Craigslist if it didn't shut down all adult-oriented advertising in SC.

That prompted Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster to fire back with a blistering blog post, which included helpful links to 11 other sources of ads for not-exactly-legal prostitution in the Palmetto State, followed two days later by a lawsuit requesting a restraining order against McMaster.

(And if the whole McMaster/Buckmaster name similarity has you flummoxed, you're not alone. From now on I'll just refer to them as Masters of their Domains, No. 1 and No. 2.)

In response to the suit, MOD1 declares "a victory for law enforcement and for the people of South Carolina" [PDF]. Right. Just like the South declared victory at Appomattox in 1865.

Meanwhile, New York AG Andrew Cuomo is jumping feet first into this ho-down. State prosecutors just arrested seven people in Queens, accusing them of using Craigslist to advertise prostitution services and falsifying their records "to make payments for sex appear to be for clowns and balloons," according to the New York Times.

Hey Johnny, we've got an extraspecial treat for your birthday party this year: Suki and Carmelita are going to tie balloon animals with their tongues.

Personally, hookers don't bother me so much. But clowns? They totally creep me out. So Cuomo's crackdown on faux Bozos is a good thing, I think.

Meanwhile, Charleston's WCBD-TV news team dug up the owner of a low-country "adult companionship" service who advertises on Craigslist and goes by the name of "Jane." She denies being involved in anything illegal:

"Jane" says that her agency is not a prostitution ring and that she is licensed for entertainment by Charleston County like a strip club. She thinks all the ladies in the adult services section of Craigslist should be forced to get licenses. If they get arrested for misbehavior, she wants those licenses revoked. "Jane" says that her employees are typically in their early twenties and college students trying to make ends meet.

And if you'd like to your end to meet with theirs, it'll cost you another $200. Ba-dum-bump.

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Please remember to tip your waitresses.

Let's hope all parties involved in this foolish fandango continue to find new ways of making themselves look like tools. Because, like "Jane" and her colleagues, this story is the gift that keeps on giving -- provided you have enough cash.

Are you as amused by the Craigslist controversy as I am? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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