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Supreme Court Refused to Block Subpoenas against Backpage.com in Sex Trafficking Case

In recent years, there has been considerable speculation linking the website Backpage.com to allegations of sex trafficking.

The activities of Backpage.com have recently come under the scrutiny of a Senate committee which has subpoenaed the controversial website.

In October, agents in Texas raided the Dallas headquarters of the adult classified site and arrested Carl Ferrer, its chief executive officer. The raid followed allegations that both adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution via escort ads posted on Backpage.com.

Action taken against Backpage over sex trafficking

The action comes after the Center for Missing and Exploited Children identified the website as a major online marketplace for sex trafficking ads on the Internet.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations took the rare step of issuing the subpoena last year, reported CNN Money.

However, the subpoena was not answered. The committee then held Backpage.com to be in contempt of Congress – an action it has not taken for two decades.

Actions like this are always of interest to us as Austin criminal defense attorneys. Opponents claim Congress is interfering with the Constitution.

Backpage.com claimed the First Amendment protected it from adhering to the Senate’s demands.

The U.S. Supreme Court stated otherwise. In a recent judgment, it denied Backpage’s request to block the subpoena. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from the decision.

Suspected Child Sex Trafficking on Backpage.com

Sex trafficking of any kind is a serious and shocking crime that causes terrible trauma to its victims. However, there are some areas of concern in the recent Supreme Court’s decision.

CNN contributor Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, said the case has serious implications and labeled it “an absolute quagmire in First Amendment doctrine.” He said.

“The whole fight is about whether and to what extent the First Amendment protects online publishers of third-party content (like Backpage).”

Backpage functions like Craigslist. People are able to post ads on it. In recent years many of the ads for adult services have moved from Craigslist to Backpage.

Backpage said it combats human trafficking. The company pointed out it  screens posts for unlawful activities like sex trafficking. The Senate subcommittee has taken a different view. Its members claim Backpage helps sex traffickers by helping to shield them from detection.

Senate investigators claim Backpage screens its posts before they appear online, and actively deletes key words that could alert law enforcement officials to criminal activity.

The arrest of Ferrer seems to have upped the stakes. He was arrested on a warrant from California after arriving at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport from Amsterdam reported ABC news.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused Backpage of perpetrating “modern day slavery” in the state.

Sex trafficking crimes are treated very seriously by the authorities. If you are charged with crimes of this nature, you should call our Austin criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

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