Backpage CEO, Owners Beat Pimping Charges
Judge says they're protected by same law that protects Facebook, YouTube
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2016 5:00 PM CST
Michael Lacey   (Sacramento County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
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(Newser) – The CEO and former owners of Backpage.com will get off on an assortment of pimping charges thanks to the same law that protects Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, the Mercury News reports. According to Ars Technica, the trio were accused of profiting off "escort" ads selling sex with women—and minors—that were published to Backpage. But on Friday, California Judge Michael Bowman ruled Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin were protected by the Communications Decency Act, upholding a tentative ruling he made last month. The act says websites aren't legally responsible for third-party content posted on them. "Congress has spoken on this matter," Bowman concludes.

While a US Senate investigation found "substantial evidence" that Backpage edited some ads before publication, the Recorder reports Bowman ruled California's attorney general failed to prove Backpage was behind the creation of any ads. He said people ended up victims because a third party put an ad on the site, not because the site made money from the ad. Attorney General Kamala Harris, who's called Backpage an "online brothel," is likely to appeal the ruling. While the ruling is a blow to victims of sex trafficking, some First Amendment supporters see it as a victory of sorts thanks to its upholding of the Communications Decency Act. “Every user-generated-content website has illegal content on it," a law professor tells the Mercury News. "Pretty much all the sites that we enjoy the most are user-generated-content websites."

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