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Judge sides with Backpage.com over site's adult section

This disclaimer appears on an ad for a Federal Way  area escort on Backpage.com - Courtesy photo
This disclaimer appears on an ad for a Federal Way area escort on Backpage.com
— image credit: Courtesy photo

State officials sounded off last week after U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sided with Backpage.com.

The ongoing legal battle between the website and the state stems from Backpage's refusal to change part of its policy — namely the way that its "adult" classifieds are handled.

State officials believe Backpage's hands-off approach to its adult section encourages sex trafficking. Backpage representatives claim they're not responsible for the content or nature of the ads on their site. Martinez's decision grants Backpage an injunction, for the time being, for a newly crafted law here in Washington that would force their business practices to change.

"Prostitution is illegal and child prostitution is particularly despicable," said Attorney General Rob McKenna. "Kids advertised on Backpage, often runaways, don't deserve to be victimized over and over, bought and sold like inanimate objects."

Backpage says they work to prevent kids from being sold through their website, according to McKenna, and more than 150 cases of kids advertised there have been reported over the past three years. McKenna said Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, reaps millions in annual profits from prostitution advertisements. McKenna said he plans on continuing the fight, regardless of the Martinez's decision.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg was also disappointed in the decision to let Backpage be exempt from the new law.

"While we appreciate the Court's careful consideration of Washington's groundbreaking law, this is not the final decision on the matter," said Satterberg. "We will review our legal options with our colleagues in the Attorney General's Office. We will also look to our congressional delegation for help in protecting children from being sexually exploited on the internet. Finally, we will continue to ask Backpage and other websites who knowingly profit from the sex trafficking of children to put in place real protections that significantly curtails the exploitation of these victims."

The new law, SB 6251, was passed with bipartisan support earlier this year. The law adds new penalties for posting sex ads featuring kids. The state has 30 days to file a notice of appeal, or may choose directly to go a trial. No decision has been yet made by state officials.

 

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