Backpage Kills Adult Ads On The Same Day Supreme Court Backed Its Legal Protections, Due To Grandstanding Senators

A few years back, we detailed how ongoing grandstanding and toothless legal threats finally forced Craigslist to shut down its “adult services” section. None of that did anything to stop prostitution or human trafficking online. It just moved to other sites — which was particularly ridiculous, given that Craigslist had been proactive in working with law enforcement to help them track down the actual perpetrators of crimes via the site. And, the illegal behavior just moved on to somewhere else — as did the ridiculous grandstanding. The main target since Craigslist shut down its services:, the Craigslist-alike site that spun off from Village Voice Media. And now, after an even more intense grandstanding and legal campaign, Backpage has also been pressured to shut down its adult section. If you go to it now, you’ll see this instead:

And here’s the craziest part. This happened on the same day the Supreme Court basically said Backpage is legal and the legal claims against it are bogus. But the law is apparently meaningless in the face of a pair of grandstanding Senators who want their names in the headlines, pretending they care about human trafficking, while actually making the problems worse.

Last May, we wrote about an excellent 1st Circuit appeals court victory for, which (like nearly every other court before them) found that the site was clearly protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As we’ve discussed many, many times, there are a number of people out there who would like to ignore the fact that while some users of Backpage may be violating the law to engage in prostitution, the proper response is to go after those actually breaking the law, and not the platform they’re using. That’s the very heart of Section 230, and it’s exactly what many, many courts have realized. The case we wrote about last May (and also wrote about when Backpage prevailed at the district court level the previous May) involved three clear victims: women who were forced into selling sex as teenage runaways. Their situation is undoubtedly awful — but it was the fault of those who exploited and abused them, and not the online service they happened to use.

On Monday, the Supreme Court effectively put its stamp of approval on the 1st Circuit appeals court ruling by denying the plaintiff’s petition to hear an appeal on that ruling. While it’s not quite the same as saying that the Supreme Court fully endorsed the opinion of the 1st Circuit saying that Section 230 clearly protects Backpage from being blamed for how people use the site, it certainly suggests that the court didn’t see any major problems with the ruling.

But… there’s just something about Backpage that makes politicians want to stupidly and misleadingly grandstand. Just hours after the Supreme Court effectively blessed the 1st Circuit ruling saying Backpage hadn’t broken the law, Senator Claire McCaskill released a report (with Senator Rob Portman) that blasts Backpage for “knowing facilitation of online sex trafficking.” This is in advance of a grandstanding Senate hearing that McCaskill/Portman have prepared to parade out the executives of Backpage to yell at them for facilitating sex trafficking, even just as the Supreme Court has basically said this entire line of argument is completely bogus.

The report is a joke. The crux of the report is that, via subpoena, the Senate staffers were able to determine that Backpage edits and or bans certain words that indicate an ad is for prostitution. Let me repeat that: the Senate is mainly annoyed that Backpage proactively looks for and blocks situations where it appears that the ads may be for prostitution — especially involving children. Yet, the Senate investigators twist this to make it sound like a bad thing.

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Source: Backpage Kills Adult Ads On The Same Day Supreme Court Backed Its Legal Protections, Due To Grandstanding Senators


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