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State vows criminal action over Craigslist sex ads

  • Story Highlights
  • State attorney general: Craigslist may face criminal action in South Carolina
  • Prosecutors claim the site's listings promote prostitution and pornography
  • Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster given until May 15 to remove the material
  • In its "terms of use" section, Craigslist says it is not responsible for ads on its site
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(CNN) -- Craigslist may face criminal action in South Carolina unless the online classifieds service stops running ads the state says promote prostitution and pornography, the state attorney general's office said Thursday.

South Carolina has demanded that Craigslist stop running ads it says promote prostitution and pornography in the state.

South Carolina has demanded that Craigslist stop running ads it says promote prostitution and pornography in the state.

Attorney General Henry McMaster said he sent a letter Tuesday to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster asking him to delete categories in the South Carolina section of the site that advertise or solicit these activities.

McMaster gave Buckmaster until 5 p.m. May 15 to remove the material, which primarily includes ads under the "erotic services" category, attorney general spokesman Mark Plowden said Thursday. Some ads under "casual encounters" also are explicit.

Also Tuesday, Craigslist representatives met in New York with attorneys general from Missouri, Connecticut and Illinois, all of whom want Craigslist to shut down its "erotic services" section in their states.

Plowden said Buckmaster hasn't responded to the letter.

"We've heard nothing directly, just some reporting in the news that they are pointing to some reforms that they have attempted to put in place since the November agreement," Plowden said.

Craigslist in November entered into an agreement with more than 40 attorneys general and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to add safeguards to combat unlawful activity and improve public safety.

As part of the reforms, Craigslist agreed to implement credit card verification, assess a fee and require a phone number from people posting "erotic services."

But Plowden, who said that part of the agreement seems to have been implemented, said, "It's not enough."

"Whatever has been done is not working," he said. The explicit ads "seem to be handled as a wink, wink, nudge, nudge."

Buckmaster could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sheriff's deputies in Richland County, South Carolina, have made 121 prostitution-related arrests from Craigslist ads, according to Plowden.

In its "terms of use" section, Craigslist says it is not responsible for ads on its sites:

"You understand that Craigslist does not control, and is not responsible for content made available through the service, and that by using the service, you may be exposed to content that is offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. Furthermore, the Craigslist site and content available through the service may contain links to other Web sites, which are completely independent of Craigslist."

Craigslist will not be "liable in any way for any content or for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any content posted, emailed or otherwise made available via the service," the section says.

Craigslist made headlines recently when Philip H. Markoff, a 23-year-old medical student, was charged in the death of a masseuse in a Boston, Massachusetts, hotel room and in a non-fatal hotel assault in Rhode Island. Police have said the attacker in both cases apparently had responded to the victims' Craigslist ads.

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