A group of teen sex trafficking victims are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit against Backpage.com
Counsel for the teens started the appellate process this week, by filing a “notice of appeal” with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The teens' move comes around 30 days after U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns in Boston dismissed allegations that Backpage.com facilitates sex trafficking through the design of its online classifieds site.
Stearns said in a written ruling that the Communications Decency Act immunizes Web services companies from liability for crimes by users. “Congress has made the determination that the balance between suppression of trafficking and freedom of expression should be struck in favor of the latter in so far as the Internet is concerned,” Stearns wrote last month.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in October 2014 by three people who say they were sold for sex on Backpage.com.
Two of the plaintiffs are still teens, while the third is now 20 years old. They allege that Backpage (along with related companies Camarillo Holdings and New Times Media) violated a host of laws, including federal and state laws against sex trafficking and a state law against unfair and deceptive conduct.
Backpage, which has prevailed in at least one similar prior case, successfully argued that it wasn't responsible for crimes committed by users of its service.
The online classifieds company garnered support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital rights advocates, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging Stearns to accept Backpage's argument. They said that requiring Backpage to face the lawsuit would cause online platforms to become “more expensive, more restrictive, and ultimately less available for individual expression.”