Backpage.com: We Aren’t Liable For Hosting Child Sex Trafficking Ads

Backpage.com: We Aren’t Liable For Hosting Child Sex Trafficking Ads

Orig.src.Susanne.Posel.Daily.News- backpage.child.sex.trafficking.washington.olympia_occupycorporatismSusanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | The US Independent
October 22, 2014

 

In Olympia, Washington a case has been brought to the state Supreme Court involving Backpage.com and a lawsuit filed by 3 girls who were sold as prostitutes on the site via adverts.

Jim Grant, the lawyer Village Voice Media (VVM) the corporation that owns Backpage claims that since “on the website should be thrown out because they didn’t write the ads” they are not liable for the child sex trafficking that is conducted on their website.

However, Erik Bauer, lawyer for the 3 victims, responded citing the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as not applicable because Backpage “markets itself as a place to sell ‘escort services’ and provides pimps with instructions on how to write an ad that works, making them a participant in the largest human-trafficking website in the US.”

Justice Charles Johnson commented in the court room: “We escape liability if we stick our head in the sand and not pay any attention — as long as you don’t affirmatively contribute?”

Grant maintains that “when Congress wrote the communications act, it wanted to preserve free speech on the Internet so it gave immunity to websites like Backpage for things posted by users or members of the site. Backpage did not create or develop the ads.”

The intimation set forth by the legal team for Backpage is that this lawsuit is an affront on their right to free speech.

Bauer pointed out that the 3 victims “were in 7th and 9th grade when adult professional sex traffickers sold the girls as prostitutes on Backpage. The pimps knew they could run their ads anonymously. They claim they have immunity from having pimps sell children on their website. There’s a massive amount of human sex trafficking on their website.”

The lawyer for the victims explained that “while Backpage didn’t write the ads, it helps develop them in part. It also gives advertisers specific instructions on what the ads should say in order to be successful.”

Back in September, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an amicus brief as an attachment to a lawsuit “scheduled for oral argument [on] October 21, 2014”, against Backpage.com for alleged child sex trafficking.

According to the brief: “This case involves allegations that Backpage.com materially contributes to advertising the sale of children for sex in the State of Washington.”

Ferguson explains: “the Respondents were themselves forced to become child prostitutes whose involuntary services were advertised on Backpage.com.”

The victims allege that Backpage.com “has acted as an ‘information content provider’” and is using that status to ensure “immunity”.

Stated in the prior litigation , the respondents (who are minor children), have shown with “credible facts” that “demonstrate that Backpage.com is not merely a computer service that passes third-party advertisements of pimps and traffickers to the public, but rather a partner who specifically solicits those advertisements and is complicit in developing their content – i.e., that Backpage.com is ‘responsible, in whole or in part for the creation or development of information’.”

Backpage.com maintains they are merely an interactive computer service (ICS) and therefore subject to enacting immunity; however the respondents allege that Backpage.com “acts as an information content provider ” (ICP).

It was decided in the 9th Circuit Court that ICSs can be held responsible for content if they were integral in the creation of that content and its development.

The respondents alleged:

  • Backpage.com chose specifically to use the term “escorts” in a specially labeled part of the website that houses “advertisements of prostitution”
  • That Backpage.com “has deliberately made itself the go-to website for online marketing of prostitution in the US
  • Backpage.com employed “self-policing measures” to ensure future profits “and prevent more intense scrutiny by the public and law enforcement”

Court documents allege that Backpage.com knowingly used the word “escorts” as code for prostitute – including the meaning that this was “sexual exploitation of children”.

Backpage.com asserts that “the term ‘escort’ has a legitimate reference which need not be misunderstood”; however included in the definition of escort is “a person, often a prostitute, who is hired to spend time with another as a companion.”

Ferguson wrote that the “respondents provided evidence that they were sold for sex through advertisements” that promised “other sexual services” involving minors.

Senator Mark Kirk explained that Backpage.com “is the leading website for prostitution advertising in the United States.”

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) states that “23 states have cumulatively filed more than 50 charges against suspects trafficking minors on Backpage.com.”

The AIM Group reported that Backpage.com “is the new leader in prostitution advertising now that Craigslist has eliminated its erotic services ad section in the United States.”

Shockingly, Backpage.com profited an estimated $1.6 million back in 2010 from “online prostitution ads”.

In the same year, AIM Group said Backpage.com took in $211,000 in “escort-service ad revenue”.

Mark Whittaker, co-author of the report for AIM Group commented: “There are clear signs that some revenue and listings are migrating to Backpage and to other sites that specialize in prostitution advertising. It doesn’t seem likely that alternative sites will be able to absorb all of the money that had been spent with Craigslist.”

Ferguson stated in a press release: “We cannot tolerate those who, like Backpage.com, exploit and facilitate the sexual exploitation of children. We need to hold them accountable for their deplorable actions.”


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