Senate holds Backpage in contempt in baby trafficking probe
The Senate has unanimously voted (ninety six-zero) to carry Backpage, a categorised advertisements web site, in contempt of Congress. See, Homeland Safety’s Everlasting Subcommittee on Investigations issued subpoenas final yr, asking Backpage for in depth documentation on the way it screens the advertisements individuals submit. The corporate, nevertheless, solely shared basic paperwork that did not include the knowledge the subcommittee wanted. Lawmakers are investigating the web site on account of allegations that it permits baby intercourse-trafficking advertisements to undergo. Additional, lawmakers say its screening practices even assist traffickers keep away from prosecution by modifying advertisements and utilizing buzz phrases like “recent” to point underage prostitutes.
Backpage is understood for permitting advertisements that provide grownup providers, and it turned particularly well-liked when Craigslist began banning them. Authorities consider it now earns $one hundred fifty million in income yearly. The corporate informed investigators that it hires abroad contractors to display ads. However Sen. Rob Portman (one of many individuals main the investigation) revealed in Senate that it as soon as ran a intercourse advert that includes a topless minor whereas it was additionally operating an advert that includes a lacking poster of the identical baby. “We might definitely wish to know what supposedly market-main screening and moderation procedures missed that one,” he quipped.
Now that the web site is held in contempt, the Senate’s legal professionals can file a federal lawsuit that might drive it to adjust to the subpoena. Backpage’s lawyer, Elizabeth McDougall, says the corporate has been ready (even requesting) the subcommittee to take the difficulty to courtroom for a very long time, although. The web site’s protection is that it might publish advertisements underneath the First Modification’s proper to free speech and that the regulation protects web sites that submit third-get together content material. By going to courtroom, the corporate may have the platform to struggle for itself.
McDougall issued this assertion earlier than the voting started:
“For 9 months, Backpage.com has respectfully, and repeatedly, requested the Senate to take the steps crucial to allow Backpage.com to acquire a assessment of the constitutional points by judges, relatively than by the identical political figures who issued the subpoenas
If the Senate now votes, as Backpage.com has lengthy requested, to submit the difficulty to the courts, it should lastly be authorizing the exact plan of action the corporate has been urging for 9 months. Backpage.com seems to be ahead to a correct consideration of the essential First Modification constitutional points by the judiciary—the department of presidency charged with defending the constitutional rights of all People.”
It is value noting that the Senate does not often difficulty contempt fees. The final time it held an entity in contempt was again in 1995, when authorities have been investigating then-President Invoice Clinton’s actions associated to the Whitewater Improvement Company.