A federal appeals court today issued a temporary order requiring the Illinois sheriff who effectively shut down credit card processing for general-classified site Backpage.com to stop acting against Backpage.

In a two-page order issued Monday, after the appeals court heard oral arguments on Friday, Judge John J. Tharp Jr. ordered Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart to stop taking actions to block credit card processing for Backpage, and to also send a copy of the order to Visa, MasterCard, the U.S. Postal Service and any other companies that received his letters in June.

Writing on official stationery, Dart wrote the companies in June that Backpage supported prostitution and encouraged them to stop processing payments for Backpage. The companies cut off Backpage payments in July, and the site immediately began offering its “adult services” ads for free — eliminating a key source of information for law enforcement about the people who placed those ads.

The company sued Dart, saying his actions were a violation of the First Amendment and the federal Communications Decency Act.

The court’s order is temporary, pending a final decision by of the three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

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