Judge throws out Craigslist lawsuit

The online classifieds site is not responsible when people use the site for illegal purposes, the judge found

An Illinois judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Cook County Sheriff's Office charging Craigslist with facilitating prostitution.

The sheriff's office announced that it filed the suit in March at a press conference describing the many stings officers have arranged after reading ads for prostitutes on the site, including some that found children and women trafficked in from other countries who were forced into prostitution.

But the judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said that Craigslist can't be blamed.

"Intermediaries are not culpable for 'aiding and abetting' their customers who misuse their services to commit unlawful acts," the judge wrote in his dismissal of the case.

Craigslist warns users against illegal activity, bans illegal activity in its terms of use and removes inappropriate content that it discovers. If users ignore those rules, it isn't Craigslist's fault, the judge said.

"While we accept as true the plaintiff's allegation that users routinely flout Craigslist's guidelines it is not because Craigslist has caused them to do so," the judge wrote.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office has nearly three weeks to decide whether to appeal, said Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the department.

If it does, it will argue that the dismissal did not adequately consider the original complaint's charge that Craigslist poses a public nuisance, he said.

The court's ruling this week concluded that the Communications Decency Act, which protects online companies from liability over the way people use their services, essentially trumps the public nuisance claim, he said.

Craigslist noted the ruling on its blog but did not otherwise comment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation praised the ruling.

"Meritless cases brought by law enforcement officers, amounting to little more than publicity stunts with little to no chance of success, do little to address the officers' underlying concerns," Matt Zimmerman , a senior staff attorney with the EFF, wrote in a blog post.

"Service provides are not liable because Congress correctly understood that the soap box should not be held responsible for the speech of others. Just as phone companies are not liable for harassing phone calls, or e-mail software providers for deceptive messages, online message boards like Craigslist are in most instances not liable for their users' posts.

Following the initial filing of the suit, Craigslist removed its "erotic services" category, replacing it with one called "adult services."

Each posting to the category is now manually reviewed before it is posted and costs $US10.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CraigslistEFFlegallawsuits

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?