NJ Prostitution & Lewdness Law as Applied to Craigslist

We have previously written regarding the involvement of Craigslist in the prostitution industry.  The heat had been on the internet media giant for allowing ads to be posted for casual encounters and other sexually oriented liaisons.  The position was traditionally that internet advertisers were immune from any criminal culpability or civil liability stemming from promoting prostitution or lewd conduct. The pressure just got turned up even higher for the internet company as a result of the Craigslist killer case.

There is no doubt that the ads reflected on Craigslist are intended by the poster to attract prostitution and lewd conduct. There really is no room for debate on this issue in my mind. Notwithstanding, what obligation does a publisher have for the voluntary acts of adults?  Indeed, ads like those on Craigslist have been commonplace in print newspapers like the Asbury Park Press and Star Ledger for decades. Where do we draw the line?

The answer to this issue can be found in the NJ Prostitution Law itself. For example, N.J.S.A. 2C:34-1 criminalizes conduct that facilitates the payment of compensate in exchange for the performance of a sexual act. The law sets forth varieties of acts which promote prostitution including maintaining a business of prostitution, procuring a prostitute for another, inducing someone to become a prostitute, soliciting someone to use a prostitute, transporting a prostitute, or providing property to conduct a prostitution enterprise. A review of these provisions fails to identify a violation under New Jersey law by Craigslist.  Accordingly, the only real way to hold an entity like this criminally culpable would be some loose theory that, by virtue of allowing advertisements to be posted, they are promoting prostitution. I hope one can appreciate that we may be talking about morality here as opposed to legality.