How a decency law protects online prostitution ads

A group of state attorneys general have asked Village Voice Media, which operates Backpage.com, to reconsider how it handles escort service ads that the group said are essentially a front for prostitution, writes the Seattle Times’ Sara Jean Green.

National Association of Attorneys General President Rob McKenna said Backpage.com is hiding behind the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which seeks to balance child protection with an open Internet and limits liability for third-party content on sites such as Backpage.com, Green writes.

Green notes that Judge Thomas Mummert threw out a case based on a Backpage.com ad that the plaintiff filed in U.S. District Court because the decency law protects the site. Despite that ruling, McKenna and his peers are appealing to the moral heartstrings of Village Voice Media and Backpage.com in hopes that they’ll more proactively root out ads that are thinly veiled promotions for child exploitation and human trafficking, Green writes. The site makes $22.7 million per year in revenue from ads in its escort section, according to a letter from the attorneys general association.

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