Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Backpage.com Shuts "Adult" Section In Face Of Government Pressure

Reuters
January 10, 2017

The online classified advertising site Backpage.com abruptly shut its "adult" section on Monday, yielding to a campaign by some state and federal government officials to close a service they contend promotes prostitution and human trafficking.

The unexpected move came on the eve of a hearing convened by a U.S. Senate subcommittee at which Backpage executives had been ordered to testify. In a letter to the subcommittee that rejects the legitimacy of the hearing, Backpage attorneys said the executives would appear but would not testify.

The move also comes on the heels of a criminal action in California, where Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed charges of pimping and money-laundering against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and the company's controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin.

"The decision of Backpage.com today to remove its Adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics," Backpage.com said in a statement.

"Like the decision by Craigslist to remove its adult category in 2010, this announcement is the culmination of years of effort by government at various levels to exert pressure on Backpage.com and to make it too costly to continue," it said.

The company vowed to continue its legal battles, which have become an important test for the entire internet industry of whether online platforms can be held liable for the content posted on their sites.

Backpage.com also cited praise from law enforcement agencies and child-protection organizations who said the site had been helpful in rooting out human trafficking.


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