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posted by on Wednesday December 14 2016, @01:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the Voltaire-wins-for-a-change dept.

Executives for the online classified advertising website Backpage have seen the charges against them dismissed:

Last month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. The tables seemed to turn after a November 16 hearing in which Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman decided against following his tentative ruling. But on Friday, the judge issued a final order that virtually mirrored the earlier one: charges dismissed.

[...] Judge Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by others.

"Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech in that Congress did not wish to hold liable online publishers for the action of publishing third-party speech and thus provided for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial. Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this Court, to revisit," the judge initially ruled. Judge Bowman issued nearly the same language (PDF) in his latest ruling: "By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider."

Previously: Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @02:43PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @02:43PM (#441274)

    There used to be a free weekly tabloid in my city that devoted an entire section for ads for escort services. They folded, but I don't think it was because of those ads.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Bogsnoticus on Thursday December 15 2016, @05:23AM

      by Bogsnoticus (3982) on Thursday December 15 2016, @05:23AM (#441521)

      In Australia, we still have free, local newspapers whose funding comes part from the big conglomerates, and part from advertising. The only section of ads bigger than the "Adult Services" section, is real estate. Honestly, I consider the Adult Services section to be the less scummy of the two.

      --
      Genius by birth. Evil by choice.
  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:02PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:02PM (#441350) Journal

    Who wants to start our own online classifieds section? We can cater to the most obscure niches imaginable! I recommend we launch in the San Diego area.

    Alternatively, let's get together and whore out vulnerable women. Men too, cuz why not?

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mendax on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:10PM

    by mendax (2840) on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:10PM (#441354)

    Whether one likes the de facto service backpage.com provides or not, what it was doing is not pimping. Furthermore, the court's decision to dismiss the charges affirms the rare wisdom of Congress in its decision to give those providing services such as backpage.com immunity from prosecution if their users do illegal things.

    So, all in all, a good day for the First Amendment and the Internet. A bad day for those fighting the spread of prostitution to the Internet, however.

    --
    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bob_super on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:25PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:25PM (#441367)

      > A bad day for those fighting the spread of prostitution to the Internet

      Maybe, one day, the people wishing to prostitute themselves won't be hunted. Proper regulation, registration, and enforcement would provide the offer to address a demand which is obviously not going away.
      It's a lot easier to catch bad johns, pimps and traffickers when legitimate, licensed prostitutes and brothels help the cops. Makes all parties safer, even the people leaving nearby and not taking part.

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:28PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:28PM (#441369)

        - living, not leaving - (hump day brain fart)

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:31PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:31PM (#441371)

      > A bad day for those fighting the spread of prostitution to the Internet, however.

      No, a bad day for people driving prostitution back to the streets.

      Backpage (and craigslist before that god damn hypocrite spitzer [nypost.com] bullied them into shutting down their sex ads section) were the most effective way to get sex workers off the street and in to the far safer form of "outcall" work where they meet clients at their motel room or even their home. Outcalls are still dangerous, but streetwalking is about 100x more dangerous and far less lucrative so outcall work actually reduces the number of times a sex worker will have to take the risk of meeting a stranger in order to make the same amount of money.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:35PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday December 14 2016, @06:35PM (#441373) Journal

      If Backpage dies, I can only imagine something crazier will take its place. Perhaps a Freenet-esque decentralized text network with a mobile app frontend. Or a Backpage clone hosted in Crimea or Sealand 2.0 or someplace. In either case, the terminology prohibiting prostitution can be thrown out.

      Backpage [wikipedia.org] has managed to survive despite this typically site-killing event:

      Backpage has had continued issues with credit card processors, who were under pressure from law enforcement to cease working with companies that allegedly allow or encourage illegal prostitution. In 2015 Backpage lost all credit card processing agreements, leaving Bitcoin as the remaining option for paid ads.

      I have a feeling that the demand for these services will be fulfilled, even if it requires users to pay clunky Bitcoin exchanges or download from an off-brand app store.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @07:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @07:09PM (#441389)

      Furthermore, the court's decision to dismiss the charges affirms the rare wisdom of Congress in its decision to give those providing services such as backpage.com immunity from prosecution if their users do illegal things.

      The fact that the Communications Decency Act protects free speech at all must have been a mistake by Congress.

      The Communications Deceny Act was about restricting speech on the internet. Almost everything of substance in this legislation was relatively quickly struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. Yet section 230 remains, offering strong protection for online services in the United States.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @08:56PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14 2016, @08:56PM (#441420)

    Psychiatrist: "What line of work are you in?"

    Tony Soprano: "Waste Management Consulting."