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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: 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.

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