Human Trafficking v. Free Speech: A Critical Look at the Backpage Controversy

backpageBy Gwen Wei

In 2012, three underage girls sued Backpage, a classified advertising website. The plaintiffs—anonymized as the collective “J.S.”—alleged that they had been forced by sex traffickers to prostitute themselves; that these traffickers had posted advertisements on Backpage, allowing adults seeking sex with minors to pay to rape J.S.; that Backpage had created posting guidelines designed to help such traffickers develop ads that would evade law enforcement while still conveying their illegal messages. In so doing, J.S. alleged, the website had contributed to J.S.’s repeated sexual assaults and exploitation.

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