NPR's Vanessa Romo contributed to this report. A screenshot of Backpage. The indictment is the first case of federal criminal charges against the people behind Backpage after years of scrutiny and controversy. The defendants include founders Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68, as well as other shareholders and employees.
Plus, a major Senate investigation and a cache of discovered documents eventually suggested that Backpage was actively involved in the creating and editing of the sex ads, making the site a publisher that could be liable for its content. In case after case against Backpage, the site's lawyers successfully argued the website was not responsible for its ads, citing a law that shields social media and other Internet platforms from liability for what users say or post online. The law, however, allows for federal criminal investigations. The indictment is the first case of federal criminal charges against the people behind Backpage after years of scrutiny and controversy. The defendants include founders Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68, as well as other shareholders and employees. He, Lacey and Larkin did appear before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in , but they declined to answer questions, citing the First and Fifth Amendments. The indictment accuses the executives of presenting Backpage as a site to advertise escort services while knowing that "the overwhelming majority of the website's ads involve prostitution. Ferrer was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate in , but he did not show up. CEO Carl Ferrer and shareholders Lacey and Larkin had previously been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, but a California judge rejected the charges. After the bill 's passage, Craigslist shut down its personals section in the U. A screenshot of Backpage. The legislation faced opposition from free-expression groups and some Internet companies that consider Section the core pillar of the modern Internet and say the crimes will simply travel deeper into the dark Web. Lacey and Larkin are former executives of the New Times Media chain, which they sold off a few years ago. As The Washington Post reports , "Backpage has argued that it assists law enforcement in tracking down victims and perpetrators of crimes, which some police officials have corroborated. The charges against Lacey, Larkin and others were unsealed on Monday. The site had argued it simply hosted the ads. The Supreme Court last year declined to hear an appeal against Backpage and its use of the Internet shield law, known as Section of the Communications Decency Act. Some in the sex worker industry say that removing Backpage from the internet takes away a safe mechanism for screening clients, and that the ads will simply move to sites outside the country, or to social media. The alleged involvement included stripping the ads of code words such as "Lolita" or "new to town," which could indicate an underage girl. Sex workers also have argued that the bill would make people working in the industry less safe. NPR's Vanessa Romo contributed to this report. In March, prompted by the Backpage saga, Congress changed Section to allow more state and civil lawsuits against websites related to online sex trafficking, for "knowingly assisting, supporting or facilitating" crimes. Several young women and their families have over the years lost lawsuits against the classifieds website, accusing it of facilitating child sex trafficking.
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