Advertising website Backpage.com, which includes small ads for sex workers, won an appeal on the 14 th of March, 2016. The ruling states that Backpage is not responsible for any trafficking that may happen because of the advertisements on their
Backpage provides free or cheap advertisements and has been used a lot by sex workers since the removal of Craigslist in 2010. Ads are moved to the front using Bitcoin transactions after credit card companies were pressured to stop working for
the website. In recent years, the website has been subject to multiple lawsuits in different states. The website has also been subject to hearings in the United States Congress, as NSWP reported here .
Three young women who alleged they had been trafficked through ads on Backpage brought the civil case forward. They were all minors at the time the events occurred. As Mike Masnick reports at Techdirt , the case alleged that Backpage was
responsible for this activity under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA) of 2008. The TVPRA states that, anyone who "knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture
which that person knew or should have known has engaged" in an act of sex trafficking.
However, Backpage argued that they were not responsible because they are protected through section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 states that websites are not responsible for the actions of their users.
The three women argued that Backpage was aware of and encouraged sex trafficking on their website. The court did not accept this assessment, upholding their protection under section 230.
A California judge has tentatively rejected supposed pimping charges against the operators of Backpage.com, a major international website that advertises escort services. However the judge gave both sides more time to submit briefs before issuing
a final ruling next month.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman cited a federal law involving freedom of speech while ruling that the state attorney general's office cannot continue prosecuting Backpage.com's CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners Michael Lacey
and James Larkin.
The men were charged by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who ludicrously referred to Backpage.com as an online brothel.
The judge, however, said Harris lacked authority to bring the charges because the federal Communications Decency Act, as a way of promoting free speech, grants immunity to website operators for content posted by users. Bowman wrote:
Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this court, to revisit.
Last month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. After an interim scare, the judge has now issued a final
judgement confirming the previous ruling and the charges have been dismissed.
The CEO, Carl Ferrer was charged with pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping in connection to online advertisements posted on the online ads portal. California's attorney general Kamala Harris claimed that advertisements
amounted to solicitation of prostitution.
However Judge Michael Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads
posted by others. The ruling said:
By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider.
California attorney general Kamala Harris is pursuing new charges against Backpage.com website
The fresh charges, which attorney general Kamala Harris claims are based on new evidence, come after an earlier case against the website was thrown out of court.
The website advertises escort services and seems t have wound up Harris who claimed that the site operated a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity .
Harris said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering. In the latest case, filed in
Sacramento County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. (This does not seem a particularly surprising, or
necessarily bad thing to do).
She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution. And from what Harris said in a statement it seems
that hers is a morality campaign against sex work. Harris said:
By creating an online brothel -- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity -- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation.