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USA: Child sex trafficking lawsuits against Backpage.com proceed

Backpage.com, Photo Credit edkohler licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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12 July 2017

Documents cast doubt on Backpage.com defense claims

Author: Associated Press

Recently discovered documents…seem to show that...Avion, a Philippines-based company,...worked to promote and create sex ads on behalf of [classifieds website Backpage.com] overseas…

Backpage.com has long been labeled by authorities as an online brothel, and a recent U.S. Senate report said the site is involved in 73 percent of all child trafficking reports...from the public.

Backpage has defended its website by saying it doesn’t have control over the sex-related ads. The company has also said it’s protected by the U.S. Constitution and [legislation] which grants immunity to websites that post content created by others. Various court rulings have upheld Backpage’s defense claims. The company has also said it takes efforts to prevent illegal activity with warnings and filters that block and remove improper ads…

A U.S. Senate subcommittee report…said Backpage continually altered ads before publication by deleting words, phrases and images indicative of criminality, including child sex trafficking. The report also alleged that Backpage is aware its site facilitates…child sex trafficking…

Backpage currently faces various criminal cases and civil lawsuits around the country…

The documents seized from the Philippines-based company were provided…by an attorney who has filed a lawsuit in Chicago against Backpage, alleging the death of a 16-year-old was due to her becoming a sex trafficking victim who was featured in solicitation posts on Backpage.com.

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2 July 2017

Small ads sex trafficking: the battle against Backpage

Author: Annie Kelly, Guardian (UK)

...In 2010, [the mother of a 13-year old daughter]…sued Backpage [America’s largest classifieds website], arguing that the site was facilitating child sex trafficking…

[However,] [j]udge after judge accepted that Backpage was not accountable under US law for the child trafficking occurring on its website. Backpage was, according to the courts, no different from any other web publisher provided immunity for content posted by third parties...

[N]ot-for-profit special interest groups funded by companies including Google have supported Backpage’s legal battles and provided expert briefs in support of the site…

[The day of a senate's subcommittee hearing in 2016] Backpage…finally closed its adult services listings. “Today, the censors prevailed,” wrote [the founders] in a statement. “The shutdown of Backpage’s adult classified advertising is an assault on the First Amendment. We maintain hope for a more robust and unbowed internet in the future.”…

[The senate subcommittee’s investigation] report said that instead of working to prevent child exploitation, Backpage was focused on getting as many ads posted as possible. It instructed moderators to edit ads and strip out the code words used by pimps to indicate that the person in the ad was a child…In one…email believed to be from Backpage management, moderators were instructed: “If in doubt about underage: the process for now should be to accept the ad…”

Backpage executives are now facing fresh criminal charges…The first civil case...was also allowed to go to trial…

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