In light of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer refusing a subpoena to appear before congress the U.S. Senate voted to hold Backpage in contempt last week. This means that the Senate could file a lawsuit against Backpage.
A Senate subcommittee investigation believes that Backpage is complicit in assisting pimps and traffickers with their ads for prostitution….
For example, the site edits ads before they’re posted, often removing evidence of law-breaking in its “adult” classifieds, the probe determined. Backpage removes certain words from ads that would trip alarm bells, and it permanently deletes metadata from posts’ images that could allow law enforcement to determine who posted an illegal ad, according to the Senate investigation.
If that allegation is true then Backpage’s usual defense under the archaic Federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 would be negated. Usually Backpage cites the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech to stay in business but if they are actively editing the ads in order to skirt the law then that speech is no longer protected.