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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'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: 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 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.

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