A domestic violence shelter in Arizona and a human rights group in Florida have both filed lawsuits against Backpage claiming that Backpage was knowingly running a site for prostitution and human trafficking.
The Sojourner Center in Phoenix, and Florida Abolitionist in Orlando, are both seeking unspecified damages from Backpage for the time, money and counseling that both groups spent on helping both child and adult victims of sex trafficking caused by Backpage’s adult section. Another advocacy group that helps get trafficking victims off the street, Children of the Night, not only do not share this opinion, but also takes money from Backpage and takes trips to France with Backpage’s attorney.
These lawsuits, among others, come on the tails of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations claims that Backpage allegedly edited ads to make them appear like children being trafficked were adults.
In the past, lawsuits like these were dismissed due to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA basically states that a website is not responsible for the content that its users post, however if Backpage did in fact edit ads submitted by users, it may make the CDA defense null and void. These lawsuits are in addition to the ones already filed in the states of California, Texas, Washington and Alabama.
Hopefully at least one of these lawsuits will have its intended consequence because let’s not fool ourselves, even amid its current legal woes Backpage is still making money off the victims of sex trafficking. The fight is far from over, but Backpage is showing a vulnerability in its legal armor.