Sex trafficking victims sue website; say it helps promote exploitation of children

Associated Press

The Washington Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case filed by three sex trafficking victims who say the website Backpage.com helps promote the exploitation of children.

The suit being argued Tuesday is one of two taking on the classified ad website. A federal case was filed in Boston last week. A 2012 Washington law that set limits on Backpage.com was shot down by a federal judge.

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Backpage.com argues that the lawsuits are an attempt at censorship. It says the Communications Decency Act gives it immunity from the activities of its members or users.

Lawyers for the three girls say they were sold as prostitutes in advertisements on Backpage.com. They say Backpage.com and other sites that offer "adult services" are not protected from the communications act because they are responsible for some of the information on the website.

Backpage.com asked a Supreme Court judge to dismiss the case. The judge declined, so Backpage.com appealed.

Washington lawmakers passed a bill in 2012 that imposed a $10,000 fine and up to a year in prison if a website failed to make reasonable attempts to ascertain the age of someone placing an ad for commercial sex. The day it was to take effect, a federal judge issued a restraining order.

The law was struck down in December 2012.