Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 15:09 UK

Craigslist boss in counter-claim

Henry McMaster
South Carolina's attorney general welcomed the Craigslist claim

In the latest twist to a long-running dispute, US classifieds ads website Craigslist is filing a claim against South Carolina's attorney general.

Henry McMaster had threatened to sue Craigslist for continuing to have "advertisements for prostitution and pornographic material".

The claim seeks "declaratory relief" against the attorney general's office.

Henry McMaster called it a "victory", saying Craigslist is "taking the matter seriously for the first time".

Craigslist boss Jim Buckmaster said he was being "publicly condemned" by the South Carolina's attorney general's office and the threats of further action had left him little option other than to sue.

In documents filed in South Carolina's district court, Craigslist claimed: "Despite Craigslist's legal immunity from criminal or civil liability under state law for unlawful third-party content on its website, and despite the numerous good-faith actions that Craigslist has voluntarily taken to deter abuse of its service by third parties … McMaster has persisted in threats to criminally prosecute Craigslist on the basis of third-party content appearing on the Craigslist website".

Timeline

In early May, the firm said it would remove its erotic services category following claims it promotes prostitution.

Law enforcement officials said prostitutes and clients use the site for illegal sexual encounters.

Craigslist.com website
Craigslist recently toppled MySpace as the most visited site

The firm says it will put a new adult services section in place that will be loosely monitored.

Sheriff Thomas Dart said that move was "a major step in the right direction" by Craigslist.

Last November, Craigslist announced a deal with 40 state attorney generals that said it would charge for erotic services ads and require advertisers to use a credit card for payment. This was seen as a way for authorities to track the advertisers down.

Matt Zimmerman, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specialises in freedom of speech and civil liberties law, said Craigslist was not legally obliged to regulate content on the site. He said: "Federal law states that no website operator can be held responsible for content provided by third parties."

Craigslist was started in 1995 as a hobby by founder Craig Newmark, who put together an e-mail list of events happening in San Francisco.

Today, the firm employs 28 people in San Francisco, although Buckmaster says his priority is making users' lives easier, not making money.

Forty million adverts are posted on Craigslist each month.



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