Appeals Court Won't Reconsider Decision In Favor Of Backpage

In a victory for Backpage, a federal appellate court on Tuesday rejected sex-trafficking victims' request to reconsider a decision dismissing their lawsuit against the online classifieds site.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a brief order that a majority of the judges in the circuit voted against re-hearing the case.

The move leaves in place an earlier ruling, which said the teens could not proceed with their case due to the federal Communications Decency Act. That law says that companies offering interactive online platforms are immune from liability for activity by their users.

The legal battle dates to October 2014, when three teen sex-trafficking victims alleged that Backpage's ad policies violated a host of laws, including federal and state laws against sex trafficking and a state law against unfair and deceptive conduct.

Backpage countered that it wasn't responsible for crimes committed by users of its service. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns accepted Backpage's argument and dismissed the case. The teens then appealed to the 1st Circuit, which also ruled against them.

"Congress did not sound an uncertain trumpet when it enacted the CDA, and it chose to grant broad protections to internet publishers," a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit wrote in the initial ruling. "Showing that a website operates through a meretricious business model is not enough to strip away those protections."

Lawyers for teens asked to reargue the case in front of a larger panel of 1st Circuit judges. The lawyers contended that the initial ruling marked a "radical interpretation of the CDA to establish a new form of absolute immunity."

The 1st Circuit's decision marks the second major court victory for Backpage in recent months. Last November, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited Illinois Sheriff Thomas Dart from lobbying credit card companies to stop providing services to Backpage.

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