Thursday, May 21, 2009

Craigslist Goes On the Offensive -- Sue First & Ask Questions Later

Craigslist is now a plaintiff, having filed a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina.  Why?  Because the company has embraced its own spin on a proverbial cliche -- "the best defense is a good offense."

Ever since the tragic murder of a woman who advertised her services in the "Erotic Services" section of its site, legislators from all over the country have attacked the site.  Some state attorneys general (yes, it is "attorneys general" rather than "attorney generals", which always kind of confused me) threatened to sue Craigslist to demand the removal of certain content.  So, rather than sit back and wait, Craigslist sued first -- filing first against South Carolina, contending that the State's anticipated actions violated both Constitutional free speech rights and federal Internet "shield" laws (in particular, immunity from prosecution for user-generated content ("UGC")).

At the same time, however, Craigslist already has bowed to pressure, dismantling the part of the service that is at the center of the debate in the first place.  And, the site promises significantly more editorial screening of third party ads by actual human beings.  

The complex debate of who is responsible for UGC continues ...