There are so many threats to the commercial Internet as it emerged in the late 1990s that I could make that subject the sole source of articles here and never run out of ammo.
But specifically, right now, I want to shine a bright light on the developments surrounding everyone’s favorite online flea market and flagrant prostitution ring, Craigslist.
What’s that you say? Craigslist isn’t about prostitution? Well, of course it isn’t, but South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster hasn’t received the memo. He’s decided that Craigslist has not done enough to weed the sex-for-pay ads out of its Personals section and filed a lawsuit against them (he’s not the only one, either).
Craigslist fired back with a countersuit and requested an injunction barring South Carolina from prosecuting its case. A state judge agreed, and as of now the state’s suit is on hold.
I’m concerned about a couple of things. First, Mr. McMaster’s poor statistics skills. Craigslist cites an 80 percent reduction in prostitution-oriented ads since November 2008, a figure well into the realm of significance, due to the measures taken thus far. For the attorney general to assert that has not been enough borders on the incredible. Second, Craigslist has declared that if South Carolina is ultimately successful in their pursuit, the site will excise the state from its union.
I’m not sure the attorney general recognizes the dangerous precedent he risks setting if that circumstance plays out. This really isn’t just an online garage sale we’re talking about– if Craigslist can be fragmented on a state-by-state basis, then so can other major service and content providers. Suddenly this relatively new virtual milieu, established by federal governance, can be attacked in piecemeal fashion by zealous state officials who take issue with some aspect or element that perhaps other states may tolerate or choose to ignore.
I’m half hoping that this issue makes it to the Supreme Court by some legal vehicle and is properly decided at that level. But then again, that’s the same body who gave us a bastardized, Bizarro World extension of imminent domain, so maybe it’s better if the issue just dies in sunny South Carolina…