Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Backpage on Child-Sex Ads
On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Backpage.com, a website involved in a U.S. Senate child sex trafficking investigation, will have to comply with a subpoena issued by the US Senate’s Permanent Committee on Investigations, chaired by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Operators of the Backpage.com website had argued on First Amendment grounds that they shouldn’t have to comply with the subpoena.
The Committee has tried since April of last year to investigate Backpage.com’s classified advertisements and possible links to child sex trafficking, but Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and the web site have blocked the investigation by refusing to turn over documents and records that would show how and whether it screens ads so as to avoid promoting child sex trafficking. By declining to review the decision of a federal judge to order Ferrer to turn over documents, the Supreme Court now forces Backpage.com to cooperate with the Permanent Committee on Investigations. After Ferrer had refused to comply last year, the Senate voted to hold Backpage.com in contempt of Congress.
Backpage.com’s revenues have soared to an estimated $150 million per year since 2009, when Craigslist, another classified-ads website, stopped accepting ads for adult services, including escorts and strippers. Backpage.com picked up much of that advertising traffic.