Another NY AG Takes On Prostitution (And This Time, Craigslist)

You will be shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to learn that there are prostitutes in New York City. Perhaps as many as sixteen.

New York's crusading Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, used the indictment of seven people who allegedly operated a prostitution ring in Queens as an opportunity to grandstand against the villainous Craigslist, which until recently hosted an "erotic services" category. Cuomo purports to be outraged that the prostitution ring used Craigslist as its exclusive advertising outlet.

Mr. Cuomo’s statement said, “Until Craigslist gets serious about putting real protections in place, it will continue to be an environment where criminal operations thrive with impunity.”

Right. As opposed to the Yellow Pages, the "adult" classified section of The Village Voice, and a plethora of websites. Even About.com offers a helpful guide to NYC escorts. So why pick on Craigslist? [more ...]

Cuomo is apparently following the lead of South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who threatened to charge Craigslist executives with aiding prostitution by providing a forum for sex workers to advertise their services. McMaster, like Cuomo, ginned up considerable self-serving publicity while failing to mention that Craigslist had already announced that it was replacing the "erotic services" category with an "adult services" category that would be screened to weed out advertising for prostitution.

The reason [for that omission]? McMaster doesn't care about Craigslist. But he does care about becoming the governor of South Carolina, and Craigslist is an easy target. He needs the press to see him taking a tough stance on crime, and a faraway but high profile startup is his meal ticket.

Let's not forget that another crusading New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, made headlines in 2004 by "taking down" prostitution rings. Four years later, news of his own involvement with high end hookers caused him to resign as the state's governor. (New York City's escort services were in great demand in 2004, the year that New York City hosted the Republican National Convention.)

All of this political blustering by the state "top cops" is for naught as federal legislation probably shields Craigslist from state prosecution for content posted by third parties. Cuomo's pointless moralizing -- the fuss he's making about a handful of prostitutes and one advertising venue that's already cleaned up its act -- might further his political career, but his misplaced priorities won't improve the quality of life for NYC residents. He's simply wasting resources that could be better spent on more productive prosecutions.

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    did we see Craigslist response (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu May 21, 2009 at 01:35:28 PM EST
    to the SC AG?

    Dear South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster,

    Two days ago you accused craigslist, and me personally, of engaging in criminal acts, reiterating your previous threat to file unwarranted and unconstitutional charges against us that are clearly barred by federal law. As you put it, "We have no alternative but to move forward with criminal investigation and potential prosecution."

    These very serious allegations followed the dramatic changes we implemented last week, widely applauded by other Attorneys General, that go far beyond the policies and procedures you yourself personally endorsed just 6 months ago, as indicated by your signature on the Joint Statement.


    Mr McMaster, I strongly recommend you reconsider and retract your remarks, and positively affirm that you have no intention of launching criminal investigations aimed at any of these upstanding companies, because in truth none of them are deserving of such treatment. Certainly when it comes to craigslist, by any objective standard your threats and accusations are unreasonable and unfair:

        * threats of criminal prosecution are utterly unwarranted by the facts
        * the charges threatened are unconstitutional and barred by federal law
        * our adult ad screening regimen is stricter than the one you endorsed
        * our adult services ads are fewer and tamer than other SC venues

    We're willing to accept our share of criticism, but wrongfully accusing  craigslist of criminal misconduct is simply beyond the pale. We would very much appreciate an apology at your very earliest convenience. As I'm sure would all of the other fine companies whose executives you've called out as criminals.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Jim Buckmaster
    CEO, craigslist

    Praise the lord.... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu May 21, 2009 at 01:54:39 PM EST
    I can sleep easy now...John Law is on the case.

    I can't believe I've remained unemployed (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 22, 2009 at 05:47:24 AM EST
    while craigslist had an erotic services catagory that I could have gleaned some part time work from for free.  It is official now, I am a bum.

    Honestly Tracy... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:38:45 AM EST
    I don't see you going there at all, you've got too many other marketable skills, professional rabble-rouser for instance:)

    Not there is anything wrong with it, I rent my body and mind 5 days a week...so many of us do.


    I've watched "The Diary of a Call Girl" (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:07:27 AM EST
    on Showtime.  It is in between "seasons" right now.  It is supposedly based on a true story.  But in watching it I can't help noticing that I tried awfully hard to be appreciated for something other than my perceived bed ability and I missed out on exploiting a very lucrative market :)

    Craiglist is drinking Newspapers' milkshake (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Ben Masel on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:07:06 PM EST
    in Classified advertising, so you make yourself popular with Editorial Boards if you can take them down.

    Ding, Ding, Ding! (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:30:29 PM EST
    If Cuomo's only goal was to get in good (none / 0) (#11)
    by tigercourse on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:33:05 PM EST
    with big media, he wouldn't have taken Cablevision, etc. to task last year for not doing much to prevent the hosting of child pornography. Cablevision owns the local news stations.

    And Newsday. (none / 0) (#12)
    by tigercourse on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:37:37 PM EST
    Take it from Spitzer (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:20:31 PM EST
    You gotta get the prostitution rings before they get you!

    I guess this is what you get... (none / 0) (#1)
    by elrapido on Thu May 21, 2009 at 01:27:05 PM EST
    from AGs who want to be Govs.  What buffoons.

    what a faux king joke (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Thu May 21, 2009 at 01:29:01 PM EST

    I'm pretty sure that Cragislist created (none / 0) (#8)
    by tigercourse on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:23:55 PM EST
    the adult services category after Cuomo and others started pushing for it.

    And they are picking on craigslist because (none / 0) (#9)
    by tigercourse on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:24:26 PM EST
    of the murder.