In a major victory for Backpage and all internet content sites that carry disputed content, the U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal from three young women who charged that Backpage was responsible because they were victims of sex trafficking.
The Supreme Court effectively upheld a ruling by the federal appeals court in Boston, which last March upheld a ruling by a federal district judge in favor of Backpage and against the three women, who said they were under age when they were advertised on the site and sold as prostitutes. The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Backpage was protected by the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for material posted on the sites by others.
The Supreme Court today simply denied a petition to hear the case, leaving the appellate ruling in place but not setting a precedent or issuing an opinion.
In a similar ruling in November of 2015, the federal appeals court in Chicago upheld an order prohibiting Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Thomas J. Dart from taking action against Backpage because it carries adult services ads. And just last month, a federal district judge in California threw out criminal charges against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and former company owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, also citing the federal CDA. California filed new charges against the company in late December; a hearing on those charges is scheduled on Wednesday.