Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicago Sheriff Picks Fight with Craigslist

Perhaps America's most corrupt political city has taken aim at Craigslist for supposedly promoting illegal prostitution. Chicago's Sheriff, Tom Dart, filed suit against one of the most innovative and successful websites of all time. Mr. Dart's actions are unwarranted and display an extreme lack of knowledge, both of Craigslist and applicable internet laws.

First, Craigslist has voluntarily bent over backwards to aid law enforcement - this lawsuit can only serve to negate that goodwill. To this end, in November, Craigslist reached an armistice with several State Attorneys General, including Illinois. As part of a settlement with said Attorneys General, Craigslist agreed to cooperate with and respond to subpoenas seeking identifying information related to illegal prostitution ads.

Second, Craigslist has instituted many in-house anti-prostitution policies meant to clean up their erotic services pages. Third, Craigslist has sued a number of internet companies which aid ladies of the night in getting around such anti-prostition policies.

Fourth, I would argue that Craigslist, as a matter of law, is immune from prosecution and/or liability under the Communications Decency Act and its safe harbor provisions. Finally, it seems as though this lawsuit seeks to punish Craigslist for its proactive efforts in helping to control and limit illegal prostition ads on its site. In other words, the Chicago Sheriff's Department is using the proactive steps taken by Craigslist as proof that Craigslist can and should do more. This is very dangerous for websites and web entrepeneuers of all stripes.

If you have questions about a website's liability for the illegal and/or bad acts of its users, contact an experienced internet attorney.

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